Questions to Consider Before Beginning an
Image Database Project

  1. Identify Purpose
  2. Assess Original Collection of Materials
  3. Schedule
  4. Obtaining Funding
  5. Allocating Staff
  6. The Digitizing/Image Editing Process
  7. Descriptive Information
  8. Establishing Access for Your Image Collection
  9. Into the Future


Identify Purpose:

  • For what purpose do you want to use the digitized materials? Is your main goal broader access, archival preservation, etc?
  • What are the goals of the project? How do you envision these materials will be made available?
  • Will the digital images replace any existing originals?

Exploring Image Collections on the Internet - Resources at MIT (Rotch Visual Collections). This site provides an overview of resources for images (includes images pertaining to archaeology, architecture and art to urban design. Gives an overview summary of purposes of image database delivery on the web and links to a variety of imaging projects on the internet.

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Assess Original Collection of Materials:

  • What is the physical condition of the materials?
  • Are the materials black and white, color, half tones, sepia tones, negatives, transparencies?
  • What size are the materials? Do they fit into one or more size categories? How many in each category?
  • Approximately how many items in the collection do you want to digitize?
  • How much of each: text, graphics, manuscript, do you anticipate digitizing?
  • Do you require the production of an archival negative for each item?
  • If the materials need to be taken off-site what special considerations need to be made?
  • Copyright/Ownership --What types(s) of copyright, ownership or intellectual property issues (including those of surviving relatives) will need to be resolved to clear the materials of any issues?

Copyright and Image Management - A current update on copyright issues as they pertain to digital images. Compiled and maintained by Georgia Harper, Office of General Counsel, University of Texas System.

EDUCATIONAL FAIR USE GUIDELINES FOR DIGITAL IMAGES - Committee on Fair Use Digital Image Discussion Group. An ongoing discussion between copyright holders and academe to find a common ground for permitted use of copyrighted materials. Maintained at the University of Texas by Georgia Harper

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  • What is the proposed time frame of this project?

For information on project management and scheduling software and consultation, use YAHOO and search using "scheduling software" and/or "project management software"

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Obtaining Funding:

  • Have you identified a funding source(s) for this project?
  • Can the grant allocate funding for personnel and physical resources to maintain and provide networked access to these materials during the course of the project? What about plans for maintaining access into the future?
  • What portion of the project do you anticipate the current funding request will support? If the current funding opportunity doesnít support all phases of the project, what additional funding sources can you leverage to complete the project?
  • Are there any restrictions on the use of the current funding?

    Illinois Researcher Information Service (IRIS), a subscription service of the University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign. The IRIS database of funding opportunities has been compiled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since 1979. It currently contains records on over 7,700 federal and non-federal funding opportunities in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities.

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Allocating Staff:

  • Who will be responsible for the selection and physical evaluation of the original materials?
  • Who will be responsible for preparing the materials for digital capture and conversion, including such things as encapsulation or de-encapsulation, packaging in acid-free containers, transport to and from the digitizing site, and insurance?
  • Is there an existing item-level mounting or description for this collection? How much time will it take for you to create or devise an inventory or tracking list for this collection?
  • Who will be responsible for manipulating the images post-scanning?
  • Who will determine the best way(s) to make them available to user? Likely collaborators subject experts, curators special collections librarians, preservationists, indexers/catalogers, archivists, imaging specialists...

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The Digitizing/Image Editing Process:

  • Will the digitizing process be performed centrally, in one place? Off-site? Will materials be digitized by more than one institution?
  • What is the level of image quality that you expect to obtain? (pixels per inch, dots per inch?)
  • Are there specific image quality gridlines specified by the funding source?

Introduction to Imaging - Issues in Constructing an Image Database. An online book written by Howard Besser and Jennifer Trant. An excellent place to start to learn all about digital imaging; includes linked glossary.

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Descriptive Information

  • What type(s) of description and identification exists -- and at what level -- item, collection, etc.? Item-level indexing? Existing description?
  • What kind of minimal identification and description scheme do you intend to implement for the images?

Categories for the Description of Works of Art - Index - a list of distinct informational categories (to be used as field names) pertaining to art and art history constructed by the Art History Information Task Force of the Getty Information Institute

Museum and cultural heritage information standards resource guide - a resource guide to museum and cultural heritage information standards. Links to a brochure explaining why standards are important. Getty Information Institute and the International Committee for Documentation of the International Council of Museums

Thesauri constructed for use as controlled vocabulary when describing pictorial information:

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus -Produced by the Art History Information Program at the Getty Information Institute, this thesaurus is usefult in cataloging the physical attributes of works of art. It has a searchable version on the web
  • Thesaurus for Graphical Materials - includes terms that are useful for subject indexing of pictorial materials. This thesaurus is produced by the Library of Congress and is also searchable on the web.
  • ICONCLASS - aniconographic classification system; it is a collection of ready-made definitions of objects, persons, events, situations and abstract ideas, that can be the subject of a work of art. Terms and definitions used in ICONCLASS are most approptriate for classical and religious works of art. A portion of this thesaurus is searchable on the web.

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Establishing Access for Your Image Collection:

  • Will the images need to be linked to existing bibliographic systems, or will it be necessary to develop an access method for the images? At what level will this access method be provided -- collection, item combination of both?
  • Where will be the central site for access and delivery of these materials?
  • Will be your audience be global or local? Is password protection required?
  • Does any markup language (HTML, SGML) need to be written?

About SGML: The University of Virginia Electronic Text Center - a resource guide of online resources explaining SGML compiled by David Seaman.

The SGML Web Page - by Robin Cover. Provides links to several online project using SGML.

SGML: California Heritage Digital Image Access Project - just one example of how SGML is used to provide access to information.

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Into the Future:

  • How do you plan to store archival quality images? In what medium and where?
  • What plans have you considered for data refreshing?

Preserving Digital Information Executive Summary. A report submitted by the Report of the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information commissioned by The Commission on Preservation and Access and The Research Libraries Group, Inc.

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Digital Services and Development Unit

If you have questions, or would like to tell us about a useful imaging link or resource, please email us.

Maintained by Digital Services and Development Unit (formerly named Digital Imaging and Media Technology Initiative), University of Illinois Library.