Legacy Photo Issues

Front entrance, Sonoma County Museum

Image by momboleum via Flickr

We have a dark secret in our large historical photo collection — particularly in the early days of the collection, we borrowed and photocopied photographs from area museums, including the Sonoma Depot Museum, Healdsburg MuseumSonoma County Museum and Luther Burbank Home & Gardens. Some of the photocopies are clear enough to be somewhat useful, but many are questionable at best. We further compounded this problem by digitizing the photocopies at low resolution, so now you can find quite a few smudgy and tiny images when you browse through our catalog. I played a part in this, not realizing at the time exactly what we were working with when I launched a project to retrospectively digitize the remaining photos in our collection, so now we also have quite a few smudgy and large images — only a nominal improvement, in my opinion.

Going forward, do we want to convert any of the existing records for photocopied images to use in CONTENTdm? Will they really add to our collection? I think not.

I plan to recommend skipping conversion for these records. We would have been far better off approaching their respective original owning institutions with a proposal to borrow the originals to digitize and share the files back prior to digitizing photocopies. Despite the money we’ve spent on the crummy photocopies already, I will propose that we talk to those institutions after we convert everything else. Although some have digitized select photos, none have plans for large-scale digitization. We may be able to partner in seeking grants to now digitize the originals. Then, and only then would I convert the records.