I just returned from the School for Scanning 2007 in Minneapolis and was bombarded with a ton of information during the three days. One of the most interesting breakout sessions was with Franziska Frey from the Rochester Institute of Technology. In addition to discussing the changes in photography practice in recent times, Frey also discussed the imaging challenges that arise when digitization programs are confronted with an increasing amount of born digital materials.
This issue has started to come up here at UNLV, with questions directed to me asking what resolution something should be scanned at so that a donor can deposit a digital copy of their materials in Special Collections. Our Campus Photo Services staff have noted a drastic drop in darkroom processing requests from campus, and nationwide there are fewer new photographers learning these traditional developing skills. Now that film is no longer being as widely manufactured, and photographic paper and chemicals are starting to disappear this kind of question will only come up more often.
It is important to have a plan in place, and some standards to refer to. Because while we can put aside some preservation questions when we know we own the original analog item, we do not have this luxury when the original is digital. Frey recommends that photographers and the imaging industry work with cultural institutions so that digital photos being produced today can meet requirements for digital preservation and reuse, and she recommends that institutions consider formats, file sizes, and metadata when aquiring "born digital" collections.
What else will the future hold for digital imaging? Well, according to the experts we may see film die out completely and following film, our beloved scanners. Tom Blake from Boston Public Library gave us a virtual tour of the library Imaging Lab he manages and this model may be the way that digitization is headed. Imaging science, digital photography skills, and imaging studios with new technology/equipment may replace the ubiquitous desktop scanner and with these new spaces comes the need for knowledgeable staff to photograph materials.
A very interesting conference with some excellent faculty. Much to mull over in the coming weeks...