Selecting Materials for Digitization

Any original item relating to people, places, or events in North Carolina is eligible for inclusion in DigitalNC. Selection of materials is left to the discretion of the contributing institutions, who best know what their users would like to see made available online. The easiest way to get a sense of the types of materials that can be included is to visit and browse collections that are already available online.

Contributing institutions take different approaches when it comes to selecting materials for digitization. Here are a few of the most common approaches for evaluating your collection and deciding what to share online.

Digitize the Most Popular Materials

Many librarians and archivists decide to digitize the most heavily-used materials in their collection. Photo collections, vertical files, and historic maps are common choices. If a lot of people are already using and enjoying the materials, chances are pretty good that even more will appreciate having easy online access to the collection.

  • Example: Historic photos from Haywood County Public Library.
    Staff members from the Haywood County Public Library selected a group of the most interesting and popular historic photographs from their collection and chose to share these online at DigitalNC.

Digitize the Unique Materials

What do you have in your collection that nobody else has? Most institutions have published materials such as county histories or newspapers on microfilm that, while popular, may also be available at other libraries and archives. Many of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center partners choose to focus on one-of-a-kind materials in their collections, such as historic photo albums, handwritten diaries, and museum artifacts. Not only does this guarantee that the digitization work won’t be duplicated by somebody else, it also helps to emphasize the unique elements of your collection.

  • Example: Kimbrough Ferry Book, Davie County Public Library.
    This handwritten account book from the 1820s describes the operations of a private ferry across the Yadkin River and is unique to the Davie County Public Library.

Digitize the Difficult Materials

There are a lot of historic materials that have terrific content, but are difficult to use because of their physical condition. Old scrapbooks and large historic maps are good examples. Some Digital Heritage Center partners have decided to focus on digitizing these kinds of materials so that they can share them with a wider audience without further damaging the already fragile condition.

  • Example: Burgaw Jaycees Scrapbooks, Pender County Public Library.
    These large scrapbooks from the 1950s are difficult to use: their size alone makes them a challenge to handle and the photos and clippings are glued onto brittle paper. By digitizing these volumes, the Pender County Public Library is able to easily share this terrific content with its users.

Digitize the Materials You’ve Already Described

One of the most time-consuming aspects of the digitization process is compiling descriptive information for the materials you want to share online. (For more information on this, see the “Describing Your Materials” page on our site.) Some of the institutions who have worked with the Digital Heritage Center have decided to get started with digitization by working on materials for which they already had descriptive information. If you have your materials already described in a card index, library catalog, or local database, that information will give you a nice head start when it comes time to prepare for digitization.

  • Example: Orange County Historical Museum Collection Highlights.
    The Orange County Historical Museum worked with the Digital Heritage Center to share highlights from its collection online. The materials selected were already described in the museum’s collection database. This made it easy to publish the materials online as soon as the photography was completed.