Saturday, 14 January 2017

Library and Archives Canada’s free digital facility—the DigiLab

Are there resources of genealogical or other value at Library and Archives Canada languishing in obscurity?
Are there LAC archived materials you or your society would like to be available online but you can't get to Ottawa to spend the time needed to consult the originals?
Have you tried photographing LAC materials with a digital camera but found the quality unsatisfactory?

The newly-established DigiLab at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, to be available from April, is a hands-on facility for users to digitize and contextualize LAC collections of value to their study, work and communities. LAC is inviting academics, individuals, genealogists and community-based groups to make proposals for digitizing LAC collections.  To be clear, LAC will provide the facility and space, including online storage for general public access, the proponent will be responsible for the work of digitization.

You can read more about this initiative, including the criteria and proposal form at www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services-public/Pages/digilab.aspx/.

On learning about the initiative I had questions to which Melanie Brown, LAC Manager, Digitization Partnerships and Initiatives, kindly responded.

Q. What facilities will there be for bulk scanning from microfilm, such as newspapers?
A. This will not be part of the DigiLab but will be accommodated by new machines in the existing microfilm room.

Q. What large format scanners will there be suitable for digitizing original bound newspapers the pages of which are fragile?
A. There will be such large format scanner capability in the DigiLab. Original newspapers, and all materials, have to be vetted for copyright clearance and to ensure they will withstand the stress of transport and handling for digitization.

Q. What OCR capabilities will there be for printed materials or for creating searchable PDFs?
A. No OCR capability of planned at this time. It could become available at a later stage.

Q. What facilities will there be for flattening original documents that have been folded for storage?
A. The requirement will be accessed as part of the project approval process. Training will be provided as necessary as part of the general training required to use the DigiLab and its equipment.

Q. Will projects funded through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program be eligible to use DigiLab?
A. Yes, recognizing that the facility can only be used for LAC materials.

Q. For those not able to get to LAC to perform the digitization themselves are there other options?
A. LAC already has a program whereby clients can pay for LAC to perform scanning. It could also be that organization may want to hire a local person to perform the digitization but there is nothing, similar to the current list of consultants, yet available.

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