Key Considerations for Analog and Digital Image Collections

Neal Stimler

President, Stimler Advantage

Collection management is an essential practice, from safeguarding a family's cherished photos to stewarding a museum's historical artifacts. While analog and digital image formats have distinct needs at the outset, their management often overlaps in later stages. 

In this post, I will explore the key considerations for managing analog and digital collections and provide practical tips on using CatalogIt. I will also provide recommendations to sustain your overall collection management practices. With over two decades of experience guiding institutions through the intricacies of managing and digitizing analog and digital collections, I'm excited to share some key insights gleaned from those years in this post.

Get Going

For effective image collection management, consider establishing a dedicated team responsible for both analog and digital formats. Develop clear, written policies and procedures to ensure consistency. Utilize a collections management system (CMS) like CatalogIt to streamline organization and access. Don't hesitate to seek guidance – your software provider or an experienced consultant can offer valuable tips. Finally, build quality control measures and track your progress to maintain data accuracy and completeness. Practice cataloging different asset types to refine your skills and ensure a smooth workflow.

The Basics 

For long-term access, prioritize saving your digital files in open formats like TIFF or JPEG. These formats are widely supported and less likely to become obsolete. Balance your production needs with preservation. While formats like JPEG offer some flexibility, consider TIFF for maximum quality if edits are crucial. Utilize a CMS that allows basic edits like cropping within the system. This eliminates the need for duplicate saved copies, reducing storage requirements and potential confusion.

Using CatalogIt

CatalogIt offers flexible tools for managing both analog and digital images. Accessible via a web browser or mobile app (iOS/Android), it allows digitizing analog images directly using the app or a companion workflow with a camera or scanner and a temporary spreadsheet for capture management.

Directly upload images to CatalogIt using the mobile app for faster uploads with minimal editing. This is ideal for one-off additions but has limitations for bulk processing.

Alternatively, use a camera or scanner with a spreadsheet to capture filenames and metadata (title, date, etc.) for later import into CatalogIt. Remember, spreadsheets are temporary solutions. Use clear filenames with dates (no spaces or special characters), and consider prefixes and suffixes for bulk uploads. CatalogIt can then be used for both upload and quality control.

CatalogIt has several great imaging tools within the system, such as cropping. You can also add image captions and descriptions to images when uploaded. Image captions also serve as ALT text. CatalogIt enables users to perform downloads at different resolutions and formats on the fly from a source file and also displays EXIF data when a user clicks on the “i” icon surrounded by a circle, which appears in the upper right of the screen.

Download derivatives within CatalogIt.

Remember, careful attention to detail and testing are crucial. Don't hesitate to contact CatalogIt for support if needed. Your specific workflow may differ, so plan accordingly for your desired outcomes.

Key Considerations 

These key considerations should be evaluated when managing analog or digital image collections. Initially, analog and born-digital image collections will have separate but similar paths, but management practices will converge as material becomes digitized in the capture and workflow process. I have outlined the steps below:

1. Coordinate 

During examination, assess the physical condition, potential data sources (analog), and file format corruption risk (digital). Organize by a chosen system (chronology, maker, etc.) and create a consistent naming convention. Consider future access and management by evaluating software and hardware needs to support both formats.

2. Capture 

For image capture, prioritize quality with appropriate camera or scanner settings, calibration charts, and desired resolutions. Save captured files in open formats and test your process with sample images. Adjust quality and color balance during processing while ensuring enough space for future editing. Record metadata as you capture. Finally, maintain consistent naming and folder structures while testing ingest procedures for both single and large batches of images. Optimize for bulk operations when possible.

3. Control 

For effective management, catalog your digitized and born-digital collections using a comprehensive system, prioritizing clear, complete, and consistent metadata for long-term usability. Understand that cataloging is an ongoing process requiring continuous support. Regarding permissions, research copyright, and restrictions during cataloging, establish permission policies for internal and external use, and document rights and permissions at the item level. When sharing, prioritize secure, controlled access, appropriate file sizes, and systems' built-in functionalities, ensuring all relevant metadata accompanies the assets.

Sustain It

Collections management thrives on consistency. It is crucial to embed daily practices for analog and digital assets across your organization. While initial setup requires effort, standardized processes and workflows streamline future work. Like other strategic initiatives, collections management demands ongoing time, people, and resource investment. By embracing continuous process improvement (CIP), you foster a culture of innovation, adaptability, and waste reduction, ultimately delivering enhanced value for your organization.

Additional Resources

CatalogIt’s website has additional resources, including blog and MasterIt posts, that can provide relevant information regarding key considerations for analog and digital collections management. Below are three posts in particular that I recommend checking out:

  1. Three Themes for Collections Management Wellness
  2. Considerations for Selecting a Collections Management System
  3. CatalogIt Digital Imaging Guidelines

CatalogIt Can Help 

If you are considering selecting CatalogIt as your collections management system or are an existing user, CatalogIt can provide tailored guidance to help you optimize your collections management wellness. Their team of experts can help you through their support, resources, and testimonials, which offer valuable insights from peer CatalogIt customer organizations.

About the Author

Neal Stimler

President, Stimler Advantage

Neal Stimler is the President of Stimler Advantage, LLC, an executive management consulting firm that provides business and information technology services. Neal regularly advises corporate, government, nonprofit, and small-to-medium business clients on digital transformation initiatives. He is a 20-year library, archives, and museum professional with over ten years of experience in collections, digital, and media asset management at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Neal is an international data and content management expert, working with clients to empower their assets, people, processes, technologies, and workflows.