Museums all over the country are digitizing exhibits for enhanced public accessibility and preservation.
The Fort Frances Museum is one organization that is using conversion services to digitize its 100-year-old newspaper collection, thanks to a Museum and Technology grant from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. The Fort Frances Times reported that the museum will also update its database to make files more searchable. Museum curator Sherry George told the news source that with the newly optimized database, everything in the museum can be easily found, along with any supplemental historical information. George explained that this provides an advantage to curators, who can now more quickly determine where pieces will be stored for new exhibits. She noted that often it is impossible to meet researchers’ requests for a specific document or artifact, but the digital system greatly improves efficiency in this regard.
The ability to plug certain search terms into the electronic database and pull up relevant museum articles also has the potential to greatly enrich the user’s learning experience. George reported to the news source that a new computer system will be installed at the museum for research purposes. Enabling visitors to search the database about a subject or exhibit of interest will also free staff time from answering questions.
Making history last
Preservation is another benefit to document imaging, which is an important consideration since older documents have become very brittle. George noted that manually searching through a century’s worth of newspapers can be a difficult task, and flipping through delicate pages could potentially damage them. The electronic archives ensure that documents can be accessed without risking damage.
Koin Local News reported that The Portland Art Museum has also devised an initiative to digitize its collection of 44,000 pieces. Don Urquhart, director of collections for the museum, explained that prior to digitization, the museum had too much art to put on display, and most valuable works of art in the collection were not viewable as they had to be stored in the security vault. Now, the entire collection is accessible to the world.
“As much as we collect the past, we’re always looking towards the future,” he said, “We’re eager to try new technology and new ways of reaching our audiences.”
Digitizing the collection also entails creating an online database that provides documentation surrounding each piece, which will provide better references for researchers in the future.
As more museums create electronic copies of records, valuable historical artifacts can be effectively maintained and more widely available for new learning opportunities.