I’ve been asked by a small-sized museum / special library to make a suggestion on what kind of equipment a start-up digitization studio would need while operating under a budget of approximately $3,200. This studio would need the cabability of digitizing photos, and possibly some text, post-processing the scans, hosting the images on an existing web server, and then preserving the master scans. It’s an interesting project, and one that can easily be accomplished within a tight budget. By putting the recommendation online, I’m hoping that others will find this and make further recommendations on the following:
Here are the criteria for the digitization studio:
- Budget of $3,200
- Manageable by a staff of basically one, with minimal to no technical support
- Capable of digitizing photos & text according the best practices per the BCR Digital Imaging document
- Capable of long-term preservation of master files
- Capable of public access to the resulting web-ready scans
Here are some recommendations using the lowest prices (found via Google Product Search) as of this writing:
What’s amazing to me is that a baseline studio-ready PC can be had for as little as $600, maybe less. While it’s easy to spend more, as long as it has a minimum of 2GB memory and 100GB+ hard drive you’re good to go. Upgrade options here include a larger monitor and more memory. Macs will be more expensive, but can be a good solution.
PlusTek OpticBook 4600: I’ve used the OpticBook 3600 previously and was very happy with it. It offers a scanning area that is good enough for 8 1/2″ x 11″ photos while also being configured to drape books over the side in a way that won’t break the binding and still allows you to get deep into the gutter of the page.
Upgrade option – Epson 10000XL Photo: $2,500. This scanner has excellent dynamic range, which for photos is paramount but comes at a price. Other options include a digital camera, but if you go in this direction you’ll need to worry about lighting and dealing with RAW files. For a start-up studio that may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Post-Processing and Quality Control
Image-processing baseline: $176
Photoshop CS3 is probably your best option. The latest version is CS4, but for a start-up studio the earlier version is going to work fine. This software will be used to run the scanner for capturing master images and to create derivative files that are web-ready. Price: $150
Alternately, the open-source software Gimp is an excellent solution. It will do almost everything that Photoshop can do. The only downside is if your just learning image manipulation, most of the tutorials available are for Photoshop. Price: Free
Tutorials: Ben Willmore’s Photoshop CS3 Studio Techniques is an invaluable resource. It will walk you through everything you need to know to make web-ready derivatives: straightening, cropping, adjusting levels, sharpening, resizing, etc. Price: $26
File Name Editing: Bulk Rename Utility is a good resource for renaming an entire directory-worth of files. This is an invaluable resource and free.
Image Quality Control: I find IrfanView to be an excellent, light-weight, and fast image viewer. This is crucial if you need to browse through a couple thousand images quickly and easily. It also has the capability to do some simple image editing, like cropping. Price: Free
Optical Character Recognition: OCR will give you the capability to convert images of text to actual text. This will allow you to create PDFs as well as text files of the scans. Most scanners come with the Sprint version of Abbyy FineReader, which is fine for starting out. Upgrade to the Pro version is a good idea when the studio expands its capabilities. Price: Free ($179 for an upgrade to Pro)
Public Image Presentation
Hosting Baseline: Free (as in “free puppy”)
Greenstone is open-source hosting software designed with the small institution in mind. As long as you have a web server to place files on, you’re good to go. Alternately, you can go with CONTENTdm, which has either a hosted option or a version that you host yourself. Fees for this can be quite steep, so moving to this later may be an option. One caveat: if technical support is not available to you, getting content you’ve placed on Greenstone into CONTENTdm is not trivial. Plan on rebuilding your collections from scratch with any migration. Price: Free
Preservation Baseline: $749
This is about ensuring that the master files created in a digitization studio can be kept indefinitely, at least on a bit bit level. Migration, emulation, etc. is another issue entirely. (Most istitutions are taking the attitude that we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.) For a small institution without a network, what’s needed is redundant storage that’s easy to maintain. Data Robotics has an elegant solution in its Drobo product. It accepts cheap and easily purchased hard drives which it monitors for you to guard against bit rot (which is inevitable, eventually). If a drive goes bad, you simply replace it and Drobo manages the reformatting and transfer for you. With this setup two copies would be kept: one on the scanning computer, and one on the Drobo. If it’s also possible to keep another copy on a network, that would help spread the risk.
Grand Total: $2,260
That’s about $1,000 below budget, which will give you room to maneuver. Upgrading from here I’d recommend getting as large a monitor as possible, upgrading the ram of the computer to 4GB, and possibly finding a scanner somewhere between the OpticBook and the Epson.
Comments and suggestions are welcome.