Digital Conversion Ensures Historical Documents Endure
We say something is ‘carved in stone’ when it’s permanent and incapable of being changed. A solemn pledge is ‘carved in stone,’ not ‘written on paper,’ because everybody knows paper is temporary.
Paper and anything written on it – even when stored in the most pristine conditions – will inevitably degrade over time. Deterioration can accelerate when paper is exposed to natural elements, like light or moisture, years of human handling, or even something unintentional, like faulty plumbing.
Not all documents worthy of preserving are old or historically significant; nonetheless, businesses, libraries, universities, local governments, historical societies, museums and other organizations share an interest in preventing certain documents in their possession from being irretrievably lost to time and environment.
Those documents could be a library‘s collection of newspapers or first edition books or a university’s student records. Or perhaps a municipality wants to preserve handwritten minutes from its monthly council meetings or years of marriage, birth and death certificates. There is no universal criteria for determining which types of documents are important enough to preserve. It’s up to the organization.
Specialized document preservation services
InStream’s Document Preservation service works with organizations to ensure their essential documents endure, that the original paper copy can be preserved physically, generally at their facility, and its contents preserved digitally using a document management system and on microfilm.
When it’s feasible, InStream uses standard scanning procedures for simple conversion to a digital format, but we let the age and condition of the original document dictate our preservation methods. Special care needs to be used when storing microfilm as well. When exposed to humidity, fluctuating temperatures and pollutants, microfilm can develop vinegar syndrome, which can quickly destroy it.
Paper fades and gets brittle with age, so older documents require special handling. Running those documents through a scanner is obviously out of the question – even with the most delicate handling, fragments may detach. The document may need to be patched together, or a crease may need to be ironed. Another example would be in the case of a company’s records getting wet in a flood. For those records, preservation may need to be done through flash-freezing before being carefully thawed and photographed for microfilm and digitization.
In these cases, and others, InStream’s microfilm lab technicians will use a planetary camera system to create a copy of the document on microfilm, which is a permanent copy when stored properly. Following that, we scan the microfilm and digitize it to create digital images for easy customer access at libraries, museums, universities, businesses, municipalities, etc. These organizations can store digitized documents on their portal. After creating a CD or DVD of digital images, we store that along with the microfilm, in our temperature and humidity-controlled vault.
A document management system is an essential for metadata and optical character recognition (OCR) which allow the digitized images to be searchable. Once Instream scans an organization’s images, the images are imported along with their indexes for image and keyword search, into a document management system which can either be accessed through an online portal, an on-premise 3rd party or proprietary system or in the cloud.
InStream’s document management and document preservation services can mean the difference between losing physical documents forever or permanently capturing them in their current state. This is a specialty practice for InStream, but it’s one of which we have years of experience and expertise. Assuming responsibility for preserving an organization’s most important documents is not something we take lightly, regardless of whether those documents have historical or merely practical significance.
To learn more about InStream and our document preservation services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.