Digitization Process

A Digitization Guide for a Cultural Heritage Institution Collection

Are you looking to Digitize your Collection, your Organization’s Archival records, or any form of Digitization Project? Then look no further.

Digitize your collections, archival data, or any form of data with Free Knowledge Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting free and open knowledge in Africa. 


The process of Digitization involves capturing physical or analog objects through devices like cameras, recorders, etc. and then converting them into numerical values in bits and bytes which enables them to be read electronically.

The process of digitizing materials involves different steps depending on material, technology, and requirement. Various technical issues, like hardware and software, file formats, and file compression, and then the post-processing requirements for making the digitized file accessible to the end user also have to be considered.

Dunhuang manuscript digitization. Photo by International Dunhuang Project. CC BY SA 3.0

Below is a breakdown of various processes the Digitization Project will go through

Digitization Project Timeline

The timeline of the digitization project is dependent on the number of works to be digitized, and the urgency of the delivered output needed by the Organization.

Digitization Project Scope

  • Identifying and Sorting the different formats of records available in the Collection (Paper based documents, Objects/Artifacts, Audio/Video records)
  • Outsourcing the digitization process to a reputable digital printing company.
  • Hiring an onsite Digitization Coordinator to oversee the project.
  • Procuring necessary equipment and materials
  • Output Format: High-resolution scanned images, searchable PDFs, and metadata tagging

How we hope to achieve this

  • Free Knowledge Africa hopes to seek the help of a Wikimedian in Residence who will be the front person in the whole digitization process. This resident will be in charge of coordinating the whole digitization process.
  • For the Conversion of these records to Digital formats, we plan on outsourcing this process to a reputable digital printing/ publishing company to scan these materials and produce high resolution digital copies of these materials while closely monitoring the whole process. A regular scanner will be used for books with lesser number of pages, while a special scanner will be used for the voluminous works, and a Digital audio/video converter for converting the audio and videos to digital formats
  • For the Storage and Accessibility after the digitization process has been concluded, we plan on converting these materials to pdf formats for the books, and jpeg formats for the images, mp3 and mp4 for the audios and videos respectively. These materials will then be uploaded on an Open source platform, a website or repository of your choice.

Budget Breakdown:

1. Personnel: In residence Coordinator’s Salary:

     – Duration: (number of months)

     – Monthly Salary: …

     – Total Coordinator’s Salary: …

2.  Digitization Services:

The Digitization Budget varies depending on the works in the collection. The Prices for the Digitization Services are influenced by factors such as the Formats of the Works (Print, Artifacts, Audio, Video), and the number of works in the Collection to be Digitized.

NB: Total amount for Digitization Services to be decided after sorting and documentation.

 3. Data Storage and Backup: Server and cloud storage

4. Miscellaneous: Transportation and Miscellaneous Expenses:

5. Contingency: Contingency Fund (10% of total budget):

Total Budget: TBD

Budget Justification:

1. Personnel: Hiring a Digitization Coordinator is essential to oversee the outsourcing process and ensure the project’s successful completion.

2. Digitization services: Outsourcing the digitization process to a reputable company with the necessary expertise and equipment is crucial for high-quality results. The budget has been prepared according to the different formats of materials involved in the collection.

3. Miscellaneous: Miscellaneous expenses, including transportation for document retrieval and other unforeseen costs, are included to cover any unexpected expenses.

4. Contingency: A contingency fund is set aside to handle any unexpected cost overruns or urgent needs that may arise during the project.

Approval Process:

This budget proposal is subject to review and approval by the appropriate authorities at Your Organization. Once approved, funds will be allocated to initiate the digitization project.

Project Oversight:

The project will be overseen by Person in residence, a team member at Free Knowledge Africa who will be responsible for managing the budget and ensuring the successful completion of the project within the specified timeline.

Our Recommendations

These are recommendations by Free Knowledge Africa on how you could better optimize your digitized collections and how that could be an advantage for your Organization

  • Meta data description should be made for each of the digitized work. This will include the basic bibliographic details of the work such as Its title, Name of the Author, Name and year of Publication, Number of Pages (Preliminary pages included), size and location of these materials.
  • These digitized materials should be released under any of the Creative commons licenses like the CC-BY-SA (Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike) and uploaded on Open Source Platforms such as the Wikimedia Commons  which will make these works freely and easily available to a wider audience and also promote the Archives Collection. 
  • Taking example for the Smithsonian Collection digitization project where over 19 million of its museums objects/specimen (12% of its collection), 101,000 cubic feet of its achieve materials (62% of its collection) and 783,000 library volumes (35% of its collections) were prioritized for digital image creation. Out of these, 2.8 million digital items from the Smithsonian’s collection were released into the public domain using the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) mark in February 2020. This Public Domain dedication by the Smithsonian Collection has gone a long way in improving the Public domain by making them free of copyright restrictions and they can now be used for any purpose, free of charge and without further permission from the Smithsonian.
  • Your Organization could follow in like manner and release these digital items under any Creative Commons license that best suits their practices or dedicate them to the public domain making them freely and easily accessible by all.

Why digitize your collections?

There are many benefits to digitizing your collections, archival data, or any form of data. Digitization can help you to:

  • Preserve your collections for future generations.
  • Make your collections more accessible to researchers and the public.
  • Save space and reduce costs.
  • Improve the security of your collections.
  • Enhance the value of your collections.
Digitizing Estonian popular science magazine Horisont. Photo by Arno Mikkor. CC BY SA 4.0

Contact Free Knowledge Africa today at info@freeknowledgeafrica.org to learn more about our digitization services. We will work with you to develop a custom digitization plan that meets your specific needs and budget.

Together, we can help to preserve and share the rich cultural heritage of Africa with the world.

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