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Guidance in the vast world of digitizing

The American historians Roy Rosenzweig (past away 2007) and Dan Cohen published the first edition of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web in 2005, where they start by asserting that ‘The future is digital’ (2005). This is presented as a guide, not so much technical, but rather for how and why artifacts and analogue material can and should be digitized. In our current time of rapid development within everything technology, 2005 is a long time ago: but Cohen and Rosenzweig has developed a thorough guide that is still useful to someone who has worked with digitizing previously and or who has just stepped over the threshold (me personally being part of the latter category).

Some of the key points Cohen and Rosenzweig brings forth are in regards to the financial costs of digitization that needs to be carefully thought through beforehand, particularly to limit the under- and overestimates. The costs for potential in-house work, where staff needs to be trained within the new technology, or out-sourcing where numerous other potential costs that is not going to appear in the actual bills: such as the potentially time consuming task of collecting and preparing of the material. Digitizing can be utilized as a way of displaying collections that otherwise may not have had the opportunity to be accessed or created to a single collected archive rather than scattered. It enables for people outside of the realm of bigger archives and funding opportunities to establish archives of history and artifacts that previously may not have been deemed valuable enough to archive long term. Because even though Cohen and Rosenzweig takes us through a thorough perception of the technological advancements being made, they do not focus as much on the possibilities for smaller actors and the opening of opportunities that digitalization has.


Bringing this into my own first real attempt at digitization, it is a cover of one of the 47 books about ‘Lotta’ written by Merri Vik (actual name Ester Ringnér-Lundgren). This one being first edition (1971) of ‘Ge aldrig upp, Lotta!’ (Eng: Never give up, Lotta!). As Cohen and Rosenzweig points out, going from analogue to digital is and may always be a task deemed impossible to be perfectly aligned. Even though this fact seems rational from the start; the difficulties of actually getting just the right colors, saturation and relation to each other was still more difficult than I had expected. Similar to the process of creating a standardized process which would have to be implemented for this hypothetical project of digitizing and archiving all 47 books. It is not for the faint hearted perfectionist. I therefore did what Cohen and Rosenzweig points out as a common mistake when starting to digitize: not properly accounting for the time and intellectual costs that can occur after the actual scanning.


These books and their covers offers me a comfort and reminiscence of the most important women in my life: my cousin who is more of a sister and our mother’s that are identical twins: their mother and our grandmother, on whose couch I used to sit and read my cousin’s copies before I started buying them myself. I know I am not the only one with this emotional response to this collection of books, as there is a small Ester Ringnér-Lundgren association with approximately 300 members that is very active. Their prime focus of their association is to keep the knowledge, interest and books alive. The insightful guide that Cohen and Rosenzweig has created don’t only limit the purposes and opportunities of digitalization to larger institutions, but also offers key insights into how smaller establishments and more grassroot organizations can digitize and create their own collections. Guides like this opens doors: also the fact that guides such as Cohen and Rozenswig’s and others are easily accessible online without a paywall, enables smaller associations and archives to approach digitizing projects. It also enables archives of artifacts that from a larger institutional perspective is not deemed valuable enough to digitize, but there are opportunities for others to keep it alive; lets face it, teenage culture is not often on the top list of importance. We will never know what the future is going to be deemed important enough for archives, but being biased towards the emotional and artistic value of the books and their covers, I am more than happy to know that they in some way will survive for future kids and teenagers to dive into.

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