Scanning at the DLTS imageLab

In our “scanning” meeting on June 9th, Melitte Buchman, of NYU Libraries’ Digital Library Technology Services (DLTS), showed us some of the digital imaging technology that DLTS is using to digitize various media (both rare and non-rare books, magnetic tape-based video formats, postcards, etc.). This was a very interesting meeting for many of us and we are hoping to have a chance to meet with Melitte again in the Fall for a more in-depth discussion.

These are my notes from the meeting. For much more detail please see the slides from Melitte’s presentation, Digital Imaging: The Eye and the Machine.

Access vs. Preservation

The differences between digitizing for these two purposes was the key takeaway from this meeting. We learned that while any scanner, file format, and display monitor are sufficient for recreational image sharing (access), if you are scanning with the intention of preserving materials for future use you need special equipment and expertise.

For example:

  • File format should be TIFF to avoid data loss during file compression (file compression happens every time you save or share an image).

Melitte showed this excellent video to demonstrate how media files lose data throughout their lifetime:

  • High-quality scanners are necessary to capture the level of color accuracy (bit depth) and detail required for preservation. Otherwise your image will be missing data which would help it render most accurately on a screen. Specially calibrated monitors are also required to make image files appear as “true-to-life” as possible.
  • The files need to be coded with certain information that would allow them to be read and understood in the future even if the software we currently use to read the files (ex. Adobe) becomes defunct.

The other main takeaway is that we have access to the necessary special equipment and expertise at the imageLab! I was not aware that the lab existed before this meeting much less that it is open for any students, faculty, or staff that have an interest in long-term image preservation.

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