This post is a twofer – the digitization overview and the preservation path of the site.
I had a meeting at the museum last week and discussed this project with the director. We are going to try to get funding for the museum, and he would like me to bring in an estimate for no more than $250,000.00. (So now I actually have a budget to follow.) I pulled myself away from the big picture and took a closer look at what is actually going on at the museum. I have a problem. For about 15 years there was absolutely NO collection management. We don’t know what we have. Literally. We do not know what is ours, what’s a loan, what needs to be removed from the collection, any of it. First step, before I do ANY digitization, even any database creation, is figuring out what we have and straightening out the paperwork. In actuality, any digitization will have to wait until the paperwork issues are cleared up.
That being said, after this week’s readings, I had some issues relating them to my project. I have some text based documents as well as physical objects that really were not covered in the technical discussion. (Although there’s an excellent chance it was covered and the discussion went right over my head.) One concern I do have with the artifacts is security. I will need to bring in several outside specialists to make the site what I want it to be, one of which will be a renderer who will have actual contact with the artifacts. Ideally, someone from the museum will be with the artifacts at all times (probably interns or volunteers) and also do most of the physical handling of the artifacts. I am still considering the technical aspects of the rendering process. Part of my problem is, once again, I do not speak the language and sometimes do not know which questions to ask. I know there are several more issues at play but I am having difficulty articulating them.
For most of my text documents, scanning through a feeder is NOT AN OPTION. I don’t even want to take these papers out of their protective sleeves. This is, obviously, a major roadblock. I have other items where it’s not so bad, like regimental newsletters from the 1950s, which are on 8.5×11 white paper, single sided, straight off a mimeograph machine. Those will not be nearly the trouble the 1789 newspaper will be. I haven’t worked out how to get that done yet. That is something I am going to have to punt on, and consult with a paper preservation specialist.
The initial plan is for this site to be an internal page of the NGEF website. Looking off into the starry future, I would like to see this site standing on its own, working as a draw to the NGEF site. One thing NGEF is trying to do is to increase our presence and stature within the academic community. We have a long way to go, but I think this site would at the least draw historians’ attention to the organization. My funding is currently based on the vagaries of donations, grants and earmarks, and is never guaranteed from one year to the next. I would like to find a way to keep the site up even if NGEF runs out of money for it or if the powers that be decide to cut the budget.