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Collecting and Managing Your Personal and Family Records: Digitization

Rare and Distinctive Collections


Classroom: Norlin N345

Reading Room: Norlin M350B

Image credit: Still frame from "Camera club - 7" (ca. 1968), Ira B. Current collection, University of Colorado Boulder Libraries' Archives
Still frame from a black and white home movie showing woman in a 1960s beehive, cateye glasses, and patterned dress serving coffee in a home kitchen

Given the physical preservation needs of papers, photographs, media, and other diverse materials that make up your personal and family archives, you may desire to digitize your collections. Digitization - also referred to "scanning" or "transfer" - is the process of creating a digital image or other digital version of your original items, for access and storage as computer files. This may make photographs and documents easier to share with friends or relatives, and it may make audio-visual material much easier to watch and hear without specialized projectors, tape players, or other equipment. 


Some things to keep in mind when digitizing your personal or family archives: 

  • Digital files also do not last forever. Preserving digitized material also requires maintanence and attention. See the "Digital Files" tab above for tips on organizing and storing your newly digitized records and media for the long-term. 
  • Digital technologies evolve and improve over time. If you transfered your home movies to videotape in the 1990s, you may find now that digitizing the original films will provide better quality than digitizing the video versions. For this reason, you should continue to store and preserve physical copies of your materials after digitization, if possible, in case of future technological developments or loss of the digital files. 
  • As always, one of the most imporant steps to insuring your personal and family history lasts through the ages is to identify, date, and clearly label material as you create and use it, including digital files. Name your digital files clearly, and keep a separate list to provide more description information about each document, image, or media item. 

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