State and Local Archives

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Preserving Official Documents

Government agencies, including state and local archives, typically house a wide range of materials that document the history, culture, governance, and activities of their region. These materials may include: government records, historical documents, census and vital records, land and property records, military records, cultural heritage materials, and audiovisual files. Recently, archives have increased their search for efficient and cost-effective ways to digitize these items. Our experts can help procurement officials from state and local governments obtain the equipment and services they need to adequately scan, archive, and subsequently make digital records, documents, and resources readily and easily available to the public. 

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Which materials do state and local archives manage?

Government Records: Official documents generated by state agencies, departments, and branches of government, such as legislative records, executive orders, administrative regulations, and court records.

Historical Documents: Primary source materials documenting the state’s history, including manuscripts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs, newspapers, and oral histories.

Census and Vital Records: Census data, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, and other vital records that provide demographic and genealogical information about the state’s residents.

Land and Property Records: Deeds, land grants, surveys, property tax records, and other documents related to land ownership and transactions within the state.

Military Records: Military service records, enlistment records, pension files, and other documents related to the state’s military history and veterans.

Cultural Heritage Materials: Artifacts, artifacts, and other cultural heritage materials that represent the state’s diverse heritage, traditions, and identity.

Audiovisual Materials: Audio recordings, video recordings, and films documenting events, interviews, speeches, and other aspects of the state’s history and culture.

What challenges do archives face, and how can they address these challenges through digitization?

State and local archives play a vital role in preserving and providing access to these materials for researchers, historians, genealogists, policymakers, educators, and the general public. However, the preservation and accessibility of physical materials can present challenges. Physical materials are subject to deterioration over time due to factors such as age, handling, environmental conditions, and inherent vulnerabilities of the materials themselves (e.g., acidity of paper, fading of ink). Without proper preservation measures, these materials may become fragile, damaged, or lost. Physical materials stored in state archives may be limited in accessibility due to factors such as location, space constraints, security concerns, and restrictions on handling fragile or valuable materials. Access to physical materials may also be restricted during emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.

To address these challenges and enhance access to archival materials, state archives often undertake digitization initiatives. Digitization involves converting physical materials into digital formats, such as scanned images, electronic documents, audio files, or video files. By digitizing their materials, state archives can achieve several benefits:

Preservation: Digitization helps preserve fragile or deteriorating materials by creating digital surrogates that can be accessed and used without further handling of the original items. Digital copies can serve as backups in case of damage or loss of physical materials.

Accessibility: Digitized materials can be made available online through digital repositories, archives websites, or online catalogs, expanding access to archival collections beyond the physical confines of the archive. Researchers, scholars, students, and the public can access digitized materials remotely, anytime, anywhere, facilitating research, education, and engagement with state history and culture.

Searchability and Indexing: Digitized materials can be indexed, cataloged, and annotated with metadata, making it easier to search, discover, and navigate archival collections. Enhanced searchability enables users to find relevant materials more efficiently, saving time and effort in research endeavors.

Enhanced Outreach and Education: Digitized materials can be used to create online exhibits, educational resources, digital storytelling projects, and interactive multimedia experiences that engage audiences and promote awareness of state history, culture, and heritage. Digital platforms offer opportunities for outreach, collaboration, and community engagement, fostering connections and partnerships with diverse stakeholders.

State And Local Agencies Guidelines for Digital Documents

The Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative is a collaborative effort by federal agencies formed in 2007 to define common guidelines, practices, and methods to digitize historical content in a sustainable manner. With so much content to cover, the initiative recognized that they would need two separate working groups with different specialized areas of expertise: the Still Image Digitalization Working Group and the Audio-Visual Working Group. Both groups strive to set common benchmarks for digitization service providers and manufacturers. In addition to digital imaging and encoding, guidelines will be developed for the metadata that is embedded in digital image files.

In 2015 a revision of the guidelines expanded on the earlier works from 2010 and incorporated new material that reflects the advances in imaging science and cultural heritage imaging practices.

There has been a strong pull towards involving all government agencies and institutions to join the initiative involved in digitizing all cultural, historical, and archival documents. They strive to begin their work by identifying and prioritizing the most critical areas on which to focus first, such as textual materials, photographs, and maps. This initiative is an ongoing project and new data is continually being published and updated. Individual states have joined this initiative and have set minimal standards and guidelines for digital imaging or scanning.

Resources This is a collaborative effort by federal agencies to define common guidelines, methods, and practices for digitizing historical content. Included are two working groups studying issues specific to two major areas, Still Image and Audio Visual. A section of the digitization guidelines, this resource specifically covers the technical guidelines for digitizing cultural heritage materials. Preservation guidelines for digitizing library materials from the Library of Congress. The digitization projects registry is designed to capture an inventory of all the digitization projects undertaken by U.S. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and libraries. Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance teaching, learning, and research opportunities in a collaboration with libraries, communities, and cultural institutions. A resource mainly for the library community, government agencies, and other organizations and project staff.