On Tuesday I gave a presentation to management on Rapid Capture digitization. I’m recommending we adopt Rapid Capture to make headway on the 180,000 items that have been identified to be completed in the first 24 months of our digitization project.
The Rapid Capture methodology has been adopted or tested by a number of institutions in the last 2-3 years, including the Yale Beinecke Library, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Getty, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the University of Minnesota Libraries. In addition OCLC has a study underway to explore where and how Rapid Capture is being utilized.
Information from these institutions is available from a variety of sources. Several Rapid Capture presentations were given at the MCN2009 conference in a session titled Speed the Plow: Rapid Capture Digital Workflow. Minnesota is blogging about one of their projects. The Yale Digital Coffee group has posted a few presentations. And Chris Edwards of the Yale Beinecke has posted details about the RIP workflow used in his Digital Lab.
At its most basic Rapid Capture is a copy stand approach to digitization, employing the new generation of full-frame 35mm digital SLR cameras (e.g. Canon EOS 5D Mark II), batch processing of images, and division of the imaging and metadata streams. Much like Henry Ford created the high volume industrial assembly line through division of tasks, creation of parallel processes and the offering of a simplified but very useable end product, Rapid Capture can potentially generate large numbers of digital images by applying some of the same principals. Low equipment cost is another attraction, with a complete capture station being only a few thousand dollars more than a scanner workstation equipped with an Epson 10000XL for example. The slightly higher cost is balanced by the potential to digitize at similar resolution and at rates 4-6 times than that possible on a flatbed.
At a higher level Rapid Capture involves debate about creation of digital images to primarily facilitate user access and discovery versus creation of images for primarily for preservation of the original object. Fortunately for me, my management is already sold on access, so this turned out to be a non-issue. What may become more of an issue is how we deal with storage of the images we intend to create. If we plan on retaining our physical materials after digitization, do we also then need to retain the uncompressed digital master or just the low res compressed service copies? I don’t expect this particular question to be resolved for some time.
Decisions about the amount and type of metadata created for each image greatly affect the rapidness of Rapid Capture. The Yale Beinecke requires a ratio of 3 catalogers to 1 imaging tech to reach a scan rate of around 400 images per day with the amount of metadata they have chosen to generate. If you operate solely in an archival environment and your images can be tied to the finding aid context perhaps all that is needed is an image number, with researchers developing their own descriptions. In this case the imaging tech may be able to generate all the required metadata directly with no additional cataloging support required. On the other hand if you are operating in a LAM environment there may be the need to generate extensive metadata in order to satisfy needs of a diverse staff, with an accompanying trade-off between staffing level and imaging rate. As with the issues around preservation I expect to be discussing metadata for quite a while.
Based on the response to my presentation we expect now to move forward on acquiring equipment and developing an initial workflow. Stay tuned….