Section One - Site Selection and Planning

Section Two - Workflow, Project and Time Management

Section Three - Standards and Practices: Digitization, Metadata and Rights

Section Four - Assessment and Outcomes

Section Five - Resources


Institutional scanning for Culture in Transit was developed as a service for cultural heritage institutions. Activities included:

The service was primarily aimed at METRO member institutions that had little or no experience with digitizing their collections. Priority was given to those faced with some combination of the following circumstances:

What do we mean by ‘institutional scanning’?

We developed the term ‘institutional scanning’ to differentiate the work done at METRO member institutions under the Knight Foundation Culture in Transit grant from the community scanning strand of the project. Institutional scanning refers to working with small cultural heritage institutions in METRO’s membership. This ranged from small private collecting institutions to community colleges to public libraries.

Under the grant, we had a one year activity period, with a goal of working with 10-15 institutions. The time-limited nature of the project saw us work with about one institution per month, however, this limited us to a 2 week maximum on-site visit. We typically digitized small collections, but encompassing a wide range of formats, from manuscripts, photos, lantern slides, glass plate negatives and oversize items such as posters. Section 4 of this toolkit covers in more detail the amount and types of material digitized in the given time frame.

Who is this toolkit for?

The institutional toolkit is aimed at others who are interested in creating a replicable small-scale digitization service. Uses cases may include:

The content in the Institution Section of this toolkit was authored by Caroline Catchpole, Culture in Transit Mobile Digitization Specialist for METRO.

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Section One - Site Selection and Planning

Our approach to selection for Culture in Transit differed from a traditional digitization project where the focus is typically centered on things like demand for use or fragility of the materials. For Culture in Transit we also needed to consider the coherence of the materials for purposes of presenting them online as a small digital collection, as well as the suitability of the project partner and the working environment they could provide.

Our approach to selecting project partners consisted of the following:

Image of Selecting METRO Project Partners

Selection criteria and guidance for METRO members

We developed a page on the METRO website to offer information about:

Interest Form

We created an interest form for METRO members to express their interest in the mobile digitization service. We asked questions covering basic collection information including:

Initial Screening Interview

After evaluating the interest forms based on eligibility and other basic criteria, we arranged phone conversations with eligible project partners and used an internal form to gather more detailed information.

Topics covered in the initial screening interview were split into 3 main categories:

The initial screening interviews helped us make an informed decision on the fit of the institution for the mobile digitization service by giving us a clearer picture of:

Site Visit

After the further information interviews, site visits were arranged with institutions that seemed viable as Culture in Transit participants.

Site visits allowed us to:

Pre On-site Communication

Once an institution was selected as a project partner, we sent a confirmation email with approximate dates for onsite work. In the intervening period, final arrangements were made, including:

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Section Two - Workflow, Project and Time Management

Project planning for the mobile digitization service involved both METRO’s project team and the project partner (the institution who received the digitization service).

METRO’s Project Team

We developed and executed the mobile digitization service with a small team of three that included:

Workflow Management

Workflow documentation and tracking tools to monitor progress are a good way to ensure all involved in a project are kept informed of progress and of their responsibilities.

We created a visual aid of the end-to-end CIT workflow at METRO to help us understand and communicate the steps involved in the project.

Image of METRO Workflow

We used a checklist for every project partner we worked with to track every step of our work with them (detailed in the checklist are METRO centric tasks). It was kept in the team’s Google Drive folders, ensuring everyone had access to it.

Overall Project Management

Google Drive is an excellent tool for team collaboration and for sharing and editing project documentation. Google Drive allowed us an easier working relationship with some of our project partners. Some partners were involved in the creation of collection metadata and were able to edit the metadata spreadsheet while other work was being done.

We used the task management tool Asana at METRO to track and manage project progress. Asana gives you the ability to create a ‘team’, add colleagues to that team and then create ‘projects’ in your team area. We created a project for every partner we worked with and used Asana to:

A tool such as Asana is similar to the checklist we developed. Both were used simultaneously, but Asana offered an added layer of functionality; it supported group discussions and time management and allowed us to add deadlines to specific tasks and be notified of those deadlines via email.

Project Management - pre on-site tasks:

Pre-onsite planning should equip you with enough knowledge of a collection, particularly the extent of any metadata that already exists and the number of items in the collection, to ensure a smooth transition to digitization. Tasks before digitization commenced included:

Project Management - on-site tasks:

On-site work at project partner locations was limited to two working weeks maximum. Tasks onsite included:

Statistics tracking was invaluable in monitoring progress during each project to ensure that digitization could be completed on time or if not, to prioritize remaining items for inclusion.

Project Management - post on-site tasks:

Each collection needed to be finalized before it was published online. Post-on-site work included different members of the team for different stages of the work, with the Digitization Specialist undertaking the bulk of the tasks:

Publicizing Digitized Collections

It is important to build time into your workflow to publicize digitized collections once online. Ensuring stakeholders and the public are aware that the the collections are accessible to potential audiences is just as important as the digitization itself.

For Culture in Transit, we publicized the collections at various points throughout the process of working with a partner institution:

Time Management

Due to the time limited nature of our project, we often had work simultaneously with multiple project partners at varying stages of the process. Generally the timeline for working with partners followed this schedule:

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Section Three - Standards and Practices: Digitization, Metadata and Rights


We create master files and access files when digitizing, copies of which are provided to the project partner after completion of the on-site work.

A master file is a digital surrogate of an analog object. Scanned at high resolution, stored uncompressed, it should not be altered in any way. Access files are created from the master file. For our project, we used the following standards for the most common items we digitized. They form part of the DCMNY Digitization Requirements and Guidelines produced by METRO:

  Master Files Access Files
Document Type Reflective Reflective
Bit Depth 24-bit 24-bit
Color Space Adobe RGB Adobe RGB
Resolution 600ppi 300ppi (image file size 2000-2400 on the longest side)
File Type TIFF JPEG or JPEG2000

Project partners were given 300dpi access files for printing/reproduction purposes. Access files for web viewing are generally restricted to 72dpi.

Image Referencing Tools:

Use a color target and/or ruler when digitizing. These tools ensure that the viewing environment for the master files can be adjusted to mimic the settings when the materials were digitized.

File Name Conventions:

Develop a standardized file naming convention, which adheres to existing institutional standards. Information to consider building into the logic of your file naming convention includes:

For Culture in Transit we developed a filename structure that included:


Metadata is an integral part of any digitization project and should follow a recognized metadata schema. Metadata was by far the most time-consuming part of the work with our project partners and is just as important in project planning as the digitization work.

As the collections we digitize go into Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York (DCMNY), we use the following guidelines:

The requirements for DCMNY include required and recommended metadata fields for completion. Our approach for Culture in Transit was to complete as many of the metadata fields as possible. As each collection we worked with was different, the metadata work with our project partners fell into 3 categories:

Description of item and subject terms were the most time-consuming areas of metadata to complete, but are also some of the most important, value-added areas that allow for greater accessibility and discoverability of the item once it’s online.

The table below shows minimum elements from DCMNY metadata spreadsheet completed by METRO digitization specialist informed by either what metadata already existed for collection or what metadata was being completed by project partner.

Full Metadata Partial Metadata Minimal Metadata
Collection title Filename Filename
Filename Identifier Identifier
Identifier Subject terms Note
Item title Note Digital Format
Subject terms Genre Digital Origin
Dates Extent  
Item Description Digital Format  
Note Digital Origin  
Type of Resource    
Owning Institution/Held By    
Digital Format    
Digital Origin    

METRO’s DCMNY metadata is based on the MODS schema, whereas many of our project partners use Dublin Core, VRA Core or other local schemas. Some considerations for metadata creation include:

Any digitization project requires copyright considerations and the application of appropriate statements of use for digitized material. All material digitized as part of Culture in Transit had to be made freely accessible online, so was either in the public domain, the institution controlled the rights to the materials, they had permission from the rightsholder, or they assessed the risk and/or made the content available under fair use.

In addition, as all the content we digitized as part of Culture in Transit was contributed to Digital Public Library of America, we attempted to align the rights statements in our metadata records with, DPLA’s set of standardized rights statements for online cultural heritage. However, did not launch until late into our project, therefore not all of project digitized collections align with these rights statements as of this writing.

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Section Four - Assessment and Outcomes

Quantitative Tracking - Project Statistics

The process of digitization is labor and time intensive. Keeping detailed statistics can be useful for forward project and resource planning. Three types of statistics evolved in our work with project partners during Culture in Transit - detailed daily statistics, overall project statistics and collection statistics.

Detailed Daily Productivity Statistics

At the outset of the project, a system was devised and implemented to enable daily tracking of the work that would be undertaken with project partners. The type of information tracked was;

There were a few core reasons we chose to do this;

METRO’s Culture in Transit Productivity Statistics

Overall Project Statistics

From the detailed daily statistics, we were able to create a statistics sheet showing productivity throughout the whole project, working with 10 different project partners. The type of information included for each project was;

The biggest challenge with digitization can be estimating how long a project will take and these broader set of statistics offer information and data that is hopefully useful to others thinking of undertaking a digitization project, showing how much was achievable within a given timeframe, with differing variables of equipment used, amount of metadata needed to be completed and types of material to be digitized.

METRO’s Culture in Transit Project Statistics

CIT Collection Information

Once the project partners collections were published on DCMNY, we kept separate collection statistics that differed from the types of detail in the other project statistics. These statistics tracked;

Keeping this type of data was important primarily for our own internal uses but also for project reporting to our funders.

METRO’s Culture in Transit Collection Information

Qualitative Tracking - Outcomes

Project Partner Feedback

For assessment purposes, we developed two feedback forms that we asked project partners to complete:

Initial Feedback Form for Project Partners:

This feedback form was sent to the project partner after the on-site scanning portion of the project was completed. Through this form we gathered information on project communication, execution and experience of hosting the digitization specialist.

Final Feedback Form for Project Partners:

This feedback form was sent to the project partner 2-3 months after the collection was available online in DCMNY and records were harvested and live in DPLA. Through this form we assessed the extent to which the project partner promoted the digitized content internally and externally once online, if the digitized collection had been used in any way by the institution, and if the institution felt it had achieved its goals in participating in the project or had any additional feedback.

Tracking and Reporting

Upon request, METRO provides monthly or quarterly usage reports of the online collections in DCMNY to project partners.

If the functionality is available from the digital hosting platform/DAMS system to monitor traffic to a particular item or collection, that can be a good way to gauge use and popularity of material. A generic web analytics tool, such as Google Analytics or PiWik can be used in place of a built in analytics tool.

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Section Five - Resources

Below is a list of all resources developed and used for community scanning events. These resources are located throughout this section but this list provides a quick-glance locator for the resources.

Institution Scanning Blog Posts

We used our blog as a way to track progress and record our experiences throughout the project. Below are a list of posts we have written about our institution scanning work that people may find useful/helpful.

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