Part I.


When selecting material for a digitization project, consider the following:


  • What is the quality of the content you wish to digitize?
    • Different uses of the digital surrogate may require different qualities of digitization (e.g. a thumbnail JPEG may be used to reference a complex data set, whereas a high resolution TIFF may be required to capture all of the content in a photographic negative)
    • Higher digitization quality supports long term preservation of  the original source material since it minimizes the need to handle original material.
  • Can the content and meaning of an object be communicated quickly to a general audience or will it require additional context?
  • Which objects in a collection will provide representative samples of the whole collection? What are some of the exceptional elements that could be highlighted?

Fragility and Format

  • Does the material require special handling due to its fragility? Conditions that contribute to the fragility of material include deterioration, sensitivity to handling or the environment, over-sized or awkwardness in handling, and loss of critical aspects of value or authenticity through digitization.
  • Which digitization tools and methods are best suited, based on the format and fragility of the material and the resources available? For more information, refer to this guide’s section, ‘Digitization Equipment available at York University Libraries’.


  • Do you know the provenance (chain of custody) of the object?
  • Do you have (or how might you obtain) citations for the objects that you wish to digitize?
  • Will online users be able to retrace your steps to the institution that holds the objects?

Ethical considerations

  • Having custody of material is not analogous to having been explicitly granted the rights to copy or digitize the material by copyright holders
  • Obtaining a copy of an item from an institution is a separate process from obtaining the right to publish and circulate a copy of the item online
  • Obtaining a data set from a content provider does not automatically sanction your ability to share it with other researchers
  • You may be able to use a piece of software or an application but you may not be able to extract or migrate your work


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Planning and Selecting for Digitization by York University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.