Case Study: A Hybrid Approach to Preserving Scrapbooks using Digitization
Downing, M. Elizabeth
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Scrapbooks present unique preservation challenges for archivists. The Elizabeth Agnew scrapbook had become brittle to the point where it could no longer be handled by patrons due to the risk of further damage. Because of its condition, the scrapbook was not available to the public despite being a unique piece of university history documenting campus life for female students during the early twentieth century. Encapsulation was the best method of preserving the physical book, however, it was impractical to invest the amount of time and labor necessary to separately encapsulate each piece of the scrapbook. As a solution, the University Archivist collaborated with the Digital Curation Librarian to digitize items from of the scrapbook that would be rendered inaccessible by encapsulation. From a digitization standpoint, scrapbooks are notoriously difficult to digitize and present in a way that both preserves the context of the item and supports discoverability in a digital collection environment. Digitization of complex mixed media items is time-consuming. Metadata creation is a challenge. By digitizing only the items that encapsulation would prevent access to, questions about presentation were bypassed. Items could be presented as individual assets. An umbrella collection of archival supplementary material was created in CONTENTdm and individual items from the scrapbook were connected through metadata rather than as a singular resource. This allowed the items to exist more cohesively with other digital collections and provides the flexibility to pursue other hybrid preservation projects in the future. One of the purposes of this project was to increase access to a historically valuable yet unused item. According to Google Analytics data, the piece has received 289 page views since going live, with most of those views coming as a result of searches in the Forsyth Digital Collections. Digitizing part of the scrapbook before encapsulation fulfilled both the need to preserve the physical item while also making it more accessible to researchers. This hybrid approach also allowed staff to bypass more labor and time intensive forms of preservation and digitization.