Italian Semester of Presidency of
the European Union
Rome, October, 29th 2003, Palazzo dei Congressi, Bibliocom 2003
National Archives, Sweden
A Handbook on Good Practice in Digitisation
The objectives of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, endorsed by the
Member States in June 2000, was to stimulate European content
in global networks. A number of specific actions were identified;
one of them was the creation a co-ordination mechanism for digitisation
programmes across Member States. During the Swedish Presidency,
representatives and experts from Member States met in Lund in
April 2001 to discuss issues involved in this action. The outcome
of the meeting was the Lund Principles which contains recommendations
how to foster co-ordination and add value to digitisation activities.
In the Lund Principles it is said, that “…it would
be desirable if Member States could commit themselves to: /…/
- accelerating take-up of good practice and of appropriate skills
by disseminating across Europe examples of good practice, identified
according to agreed features (typology)
It is also recommends that “… the European Commission
/…/ should work with Member States to: /…/
- advance the dissemination of good practice by promoting centres
of competence which can provide leadership and support for stakeholders
on key issues and technologies…”
The Lund principles were transformed into the Lund Action Plan
that identifies four main areas of action, one of them being “Promotion
of Good Practice”.
In the Minerva project, which can be seen as the operative part
within the framework set up by the Lund principles and the Lund
Action Plan, a special work package (WP 6) was dedicated to the
identification of good practice and competence centres.
The objectives of Minerva WP 6 are mainly to
- support the development of skills and increase of efficiency
in digitisation by encourage take-up of good practice and promotion
of “Centres of Competence”
- support other Minerva work packages in the selection and identification
For the practical outcome, WP 6 has chosen two complementary
action lines: one connected to a so called knowledge database
on the web and one in the form of a practical and periodically
updated handbook on good practice in digitisation. It is about
this handbook that I will talk today.
The handbook on good practice in digitisation should be looked
upon as a first harvest from the work carried out to date in the
Minerva project. It allows third parties to benefit as soon as
possible from the of the Minerva project.
The handbook also includes the result of a survey of best practice
examples conducted in connection to a NRG-meeting in Alicante
in May 2002 during the Spanish Presidency. NRG stands for National
Representative Group, a group created to promote the Lund Principles
and monitor the Lund Action Plan.
But why a handbook on good practice? We know that digitisation
in the cultural community is well covered by publicly available
guidelines and good practice guides. We are also aware of that
internationally adopted standards today are available in most
areas connected to digitisation.
On the other hand, we know from examples of good practice collected
in connection to the NRG meeting in Alicante last year that
- the target audience for digitisation projects differs widely
- areas like accessibility, copyright issues, preservation and
good quality aspects are in focus for many of today’s
- areas like management, work flow etc. are not that popular
- many digitisation projects have multi-focusing objectives.
It is easy to interpret the situation as a tendency to act before
doing serious thinking on the whole concept that the projects
in mind have to deal handle.
Our conclusion was, therefore, that even if there are guidelines,
standards etc. available, they are not fully used or even known
when it comes to practical work in digitisation. We saw a missing
So, one of the action lines of Minerva work package 6 became
a handbook on good practice in digitisation with the following
- The aim is that it should be an output containing a concrete,
pragmatic set of guidelines.
- It should also be a living document to be updated periodically.
- The target audience is teams within and across cultural institutions
contemplating or already executing digitisation projects.
- The focus is very clear, archives, libraries and museums
The approach during the work with the handbook has been: keep
A lot of work and thinking has been put in finding a structure
of the handbook that covers the subject in mind, is logical and
easy to understand for the read, and allows on-going updating.
The structure we have chosen is
- Practical guidelines
- Digitisation guidelines: a selected list
If we start with the background, the aim is to give the reader
a clear picture of the context in which this handbook should be
considered. This sound maybe obvious but, by spending hours reading
guidelines and handbooks that after a while appeared to be worthless
for my purposes, at least I have learned that a clear picture
of the context saves time and energy.
Next part is the practical guidelines, in other words the core
of the handbook. They consist of the most important practical
lessons learnt and information collected so far by Minerva work
Chapter: Practical guidelines
The practical guidelines are focusing on a number of “rules
of thumb” and divided into areas reflecting the stages in
the life-cycle of a digitisation project. These areas are
- Digitisation Project Planning
- Preparation for Digitisation
- Handling of Originals
- The Digitisation Process
- Preservation of the Digital Master Material
- Preparation for Publication
- Online Publication
- IPR and Copyright
- Project Management
Each guideline description is made up of the following elements:
- A Guideline Title
- An Issue Definition (sets the scene and introduces the problem
- The Guideline Text (a set of pragmatic suggestions on relevant
- Notes/Commentary (additional information when needed)
- References broken into two parts:
- Online references
- References nominated by Minerva partners and other Member
These nominated projects may or may not address a particular
area explicitly. The references are provided either because a
project can be expected to have experience in a particular area,
or because it addresses this area in detail. More information
about the nominated projects is found on the Minerva website (see
Neither the guidelines nor the references are exhaustive. However,
they provide the most important information needed by a project
addressing a particular task – or tasks – within the
lifecycle of a digitisation project.
Concerning standards the handbook on good practice gives an overview
of relevant technical standards covering only the most important
ones. Standards in the following areas are included:
- Digital Video
- Taxonomy and Naming
The major focus is on technology standards which impinge on the
decisions needed to be made during a digitisation project.
Chapter: Digitisation guidelines: a selected list
The aim is here to give an overview of the most important guidelines
published by different public or private institutions, projects
The list is limited to guidelines for digitisation of paper based
material like manuscripts/records, printed books and photos, and
not for digitisation of multimedia materials. Toolboxes and tutorials
are included too, because as learning resources they are just
as valuable as guidelines.
The criteria for selection have been that the guidelines in mind
should be of general interest for professionals worldwide.
Each guideline is examined and described in a standardised way:
- Author (for example the British Library)
- Contribution (if someone) is mentioned. For example
- Author: CUL Columbia University Library
- o Contributor: by Anne R. Kenney and Stephan Chapman
- Title (for example Digital Imaging for Libraries and Archives)
- Description (short overview of what the guidelines focus
- Date which could be when the guidelines were published or
updated last time. If neither of these days are known the day
when the information is captured from the website is noted (for
example visited May 2003).
- Format (normally HTML but some times PDF, RTF etc)
- URL (for example http://www.library.cornell.edu/preservation/dila.html)
The presentation on the list is in alphabetic order by authors.
Firstly, the dissemination of the handbook will be finished.
A discussion forum about the handbook was opened this spring on
the Minerva web site. The first reactions we got showed that we
where on the right track.
The dissemination then continued during summer and early autumn,
based on a revised version of the text. However, all comments
on details and all additional information we got has not been
digested in this revised version. This will be done in the following
weeks. Everybody on this work shop are welcome to give comments
up to next week when the discussion forum will be closed.
Secondly, a final version (1.0) will be presented at the next
NRG meeting which takes lace in Parma in November.
Thirdly, the final version of the handbook will be distributed
though several channels. We have the Minerva website and there
are also plans for a print-out version. I believe, however, there
are needs for a distribution on national level in the Member States
that cannot be satisfied only by a handbook in English. To be
fully used the handbook has to be put into a national context,
- a translation to the national language, like you have done
- identification of national competence centres that on this
rather “raw” material, which the handbook is in
its present form, can put new layers of knowledge and skills
that suits each Member State.