I don’t seem to be able to take notes at conference luncheons. That was certainly the case at the luncheon presented by Ancestry.com’s Sabrina Petersen at the 2013 annual conference of the National Genealogical Society. She titled her presentation “TRON, Mr. Spock, and Willie Wonka: If They Can Digitize So Can You.” Petersen is director of global imaging for Ancestry.com. Unlike TRON, Mr. Spock, and Willie Wonka, we won’t be digitizing and transporting people anytime soon, but we can digitize photographs and documents.
Petersen presented some great suggestions, and in the absence of notes she was kind enough to send me some:
1. Think like an Archive.
Archives think about how to preserve records and photographs for their patrons and posterity within a budget. For the most important and their most used copies they make digital surrogates, and put the record in a secure location so that it doesn’t have to be handled all the time, and store it in a dark safe place. Digitization allows for multiple copies of the original that can be shared as well as stored.
2. Think about how you are going to find a particular picture/document in the future.
Putting metadata within the name of the image itself is the easiest way to find it in the future. You might put “Aunt Nancy Family Reunion 1982 picnic” as the name of the picture. Or “Death Certificate Benjamin Franklin Blansett 1912”. By making the name the basic information you can then easily search and find it again. Then you can further organize the files by putting them in folder by event, family surname or by type of record. All of these will help make the retrieval of this easier in the future.
3. Digitize your records.
This can be done by using a whole slew of different types of equipment, but probably the easiest is a digital camera for most documents, besides which cameras are easy to carry with you when you are visiting relatives, or maybe even at an archive. Make sure you capture the document or picture as straight as possible when you take the picture. While it might be easy to straighten a photo after you take it, it will produce some digital artifacts that are not yet visible. If you copy these files many times, depending on the format, these artifacts become more apparent to the naked eye. The easiest way to help avoid these is simply take a straight picture to begin with.
4. Which brings us to formats to save your images.
There are a lot of formats to choose from. JPEG and TIFF are the most common. Whichever you choose, make sure that you have the original copy someplace safe and then make a second copy which is the one you play with, send to others, or upload for safe keeping to your family tree on Ancestry. This second copy can be any file format you choose, including a PDF. This makes it easy to share, easy to send, and easy to upload.
5. Lastly remember that anything you do now is better than nothing.
Thanks, Sabrina. Now everyone. Get out there and get digitizing.