Monday, 6 November 2017

National Heritage Digitization Strategy: Digitizing newspapers

A short interim report (pdf) dated October on this newspaper digitization pilot project has been posted by LAC.

The findings of the first phase, consultation with Canadian organizations, were:

 The number of Canadian newspaper titles is vast and easy to underestimate.
 Organizations adopt project-based approaches as opportunities (funding, equipment, resources, and partnerships) present themselves. This can lead to inventive methods but fragmented results.

Comment: Could this be because of a lack of national leadership compared to, say the USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand?
 Because of its relative stability and consistency, microfilm is by far the most common format digitized. Digitizing paper titles is mostly avoided because of their irregular formats and high cost.
Comment: Unfortunately the degree to which quality of digitization is compromised when using microfilm originals is unqualified in the interim report. Projects like the British Newspaper Archive use printed copy originals. Do it on the cheap and get an inferior product.

 Optical character recognition (OCR) is imperfect but critical. Organizations invest ongoing resources to improve results.
 Clearing copyright can be daunting but is necessary. In many cases, publishers are open to discussing options.
 Privacy concerns are few, but need to be taken seriously. Organizations need to balance access to information with protection of personal information.
 Digitized newspapers appeal to wide audiences who value quantity over quality. Organizations almost universally adopt free and open access models.
 Organizations see opportunities to share experiences and build on expertise; aggregate collections for improved discovery; explore and support smaller community titles, particularly those using non-Latin scripts; and build digitization capacity in smaller organizations.

For the second phase, digitization pilot project, First Nation’s titles was selected "because it most closely aligned with the principles of diversity and inclusion found in the overall NHDS and the accompanying content strategy being developing by the working group." The titles selected are:

 Windspeaker – (2005 to 2015)
 Turtle Island News – (2001 to 2013)
 Ha-Shilth-Sa – (1974 to 2002)
Comment: If the content strategy is "being developed" how could it guide the selection? How does selecting exclusively indigenous titles optimise "diversity and inclusion"? 

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