Camera Upgrade for Digitization Lab

Project Title: Camera Upgrade for Digitization Lab

Long Title (if desired): Camera Upgrade for Digitization Lab at the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, Miami University Libraries

Project Lead's Name: Alia Levar Wegner

Project Lead's Email:

Project Lead's Phone: 513-529-0462

Project Lead's Division: ULB

Other Team Members and their emails:

  • Justin Bridges,
  • William Modrow,
  • Samantha Brandenburg,

List Departments Benefiting or Affected by this proposal:

  • Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, (Miami University Libraries)
  • Hefner Museum of Natural History Departments in the College of Arts & Science

Estimated Number of Under-Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 700

Estimated Number of Graduate students affected per year (should be number who will actually use solution, not just who is it available to): 70

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem:

Problem description: A tremendous array of valuable and rare resources is available in the Special Collections area of the Miami University. Due to various reasons, including the type of material, the fragility of the material, the rarity of the material as well as other issues, these assets are often not easily and readily available to students. Because of this, students are missing opportunities to make use of this treasure trove of materials. These involve some of the library's most valuable collections including the Cradle of Coaches Archive, the Native American Women Playwrights Archive (NAWPA), and the André de Saint-Rat Collection of Russian History, Literature and Art. This also relates to oversized collections like the Russian Soviet posters, Küchler Map Collection, and the Cincinnati Circus poster collection.

Miami University Libraries' current digital imaging equipment is no longer adequate to meet the needs of students. The outdated imaging technology impacts the quality of digital products and prevents Miami University Libraries' Digital Collections from adopting emerging pedagogical practices and services. This proposal seeks to acquire new camera technology that would allow Digital Collections staff to implement a service-model digitization approach focused on student needs. The camera technology requested in this proposal was created specifically for cultural heritage institutions and is designed to be flexible, fast, and durable. Currently, the imaging technology at the Miami University Libraries digitization lab is 7 to 16 years old and requires hours of post-processing time to prepare images for student and use. The slowness, inflexibility, and uneven quality of the current imaging equipment limits the department's ability to support student-focused projects. For example, the image quality of current digital products does not consistently meet the federal digitization standards (FAGDI) expected for an institution of Miami University's size and reputation. This limits how students can use these materials, especially if the images are below preservation standards.

Approach to solving problem: Less than 0.5% of Miami University Special Collections materials are available online. The acquisition of new imaging equipment would allow Special Collections to digitize some of these valuable items and make them available online to Miami students and allow them to make use of them for research and class assignments. It would also be possible to digitize some of these materials on demand for use by students.

This proposal recommends the acquisition of a Phase One iXG 50 mega pixel camera and Digital Transitions Reprographic System to improve the quality, speed, and flexibility of special collections digitization. Many of Miami University's aspirational and peer institutions use the proposed camera technology to digitize their special collections materials. In collaboration with Justin Bridges, the Preservation Librarian, the recommended imaging technology has been carefully assessed for quality and sustainability concerns. The acquisition of the Phase One iXG camera and Digital Transitions Reprographic System would bring the current image quality to FAGDI Level 3, which is the expected image standard for an institution of Miami University's size and library holdings. With additional attention to color management and staff training, Miami University Libraries can reach FAGDI Level 4, which is the highest federal standard for cultural heritage digitization. The acquisition of high-quality camera equipment would enable Miami University Libraries to develop customized workflows to create e-Learning resources and online learning models with digitized special collections materials. With faster and higher quality imaging equipment, Digital Collections staff can market new digitization services to the student body. The upgraded technology also allows Miami University Libraries to pay special attention to students with accessibility concerns as well as those students enrolled in online courses and degrees.

How would you describe the innovation and/or the significance of your project: The acquisition of the Phase One iXG camera and Digital Transitions Reprographic System would allow Miami University Libraries to adopt an innovative student focused digitization model with immediate and long-term impact on student education. The technology would speed up digitization work by standardizing image quality and saving valuable time currently spent on the post-processing phase. With faster digitization workflows, the Digital Collections staff can respond more quickly to image requests and promote digital services for online curricular development and student research. While previous digitization models have focused on building large digital collections of scanned materials for preservation and general access, the upgraded imaging technology will enable the Walter Havighurst Special Collections to respond more effectively to changing curriculum, learning platforms, and student needs.

The focus is on serving students in three specific ways:

  1. Digital Pedagogy. The imaging technology requested here will be used to create specialized content for online modules in Miami University's Canvas learning management system. Several faculty members have expressed interest in building customized modules with special collections materials for their online and traditional classrooms. These emerging teaching aids will have an immediate impact on student learning. Used as supplements or part of the curricula, digitized special collections materials can provide students with critical experience working with primary source documents and build skills in visual and primary source literacies. For those students enrolled in online classes or programs, these online resources might be the only way that they can engage with Special Collections materials.
  2. Student-driven digitization. With the acquisition of faster and better quality camera technology, digital collections staff can respond more quickly to student digitization requests for special collections materials. In this service model, students drive digitization needs. The faster camera technology will allow the department to process more student imaging requests. Current imaging technology is too slow and inflexible to accommodate on-demand digitization workflows focused on student needs. With updated imaging technology the department can widely promote its digitization services to students through easy- to-access online forms, instruction sessions, and outreach. Student focused digitization is an emerging practice in academic libraries. With the acquisition of this technology, Miami University Libraries will be at the forefront of responding to student needs for digital special collections materials.
  3. Innovative Collaborations. The addition of high-quality imaging equipment will enable the Miami University Libraries to undertake new and challenging collaborations with other university departments and centers that will directly benefit students from a variety of disciplines. This drive towards collaboration supports the student services offered by the Center for Digital Scholarship and the Walter Havighurst Special Collections. In particular, the acquisition of new imaging technology will directly impact an upcoming collaboration between the Hefner Museum of Natural History, the Center for Digital Scholarship, and the Walter Havighurst Special Collections.

Described below, this cross-disciplinary collaboration is an excellent example of how new imaging technology can benefit Miami University students in significant ways:

Hefner Museum of Natural History Collaboration. Miami University Libraries' upcoming collaboration with the Hefner Museum of Natural History is led by the Center for Digital Scholarship with digitization support by the Walter Havighurst Special Collections.

In the course of this collaboration, students will digitize bird wing specimens from the Hefner Museum of Natural History with the goal of publishing an authoritative American bird wing banding manual. This project is unique in terms of the level of student involvement in the digitization and publishing process. Students will be able to participate in the publication of the manual at every stage, including image capture using the proposed equipment, metadata creation, and writing for scientific audiences. This collaboration depends on the acquisition of high-quality imaging equipment. The current imaging technology at the Miami University Libraries and the Hefner Museum of Natural History is inadequate to capture the detail of the specimens necessary for print publication. The Phase One iXG camera and Reprographic System are versatile enough to photograph specimens at a high enough dpi for professional printing. The purchase of this imaging equipment would enable students from multiple disciplines and programs to be part of the publication of a standard scientific manual. The collaboration would allow Miami University students to enhance their resumes with valuable scientific publishing experience, which will better prepare them to obtain competitive positions and graduate school admissions in their fields.

How will you assess the success of the project: This project will be assessed through qualitative and quantitative methods. The student impact of using the imaging technology for curricula development and student research can be measured by the number of students enrolled in classes that use the online Canvas modules, the number of new Canvas modules created, and the number of student requests for digital images. Assessment of the quality of the digitized learning modules will be assessed through focus-group and survey methods as well as faculty feedback. The impact of collaborations will be measured by the number of students involved in the project as well as the number of students using the digital or print products produced through digitization.

Total Amount Requested: $59,680

Is this a multi-year request: No