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DPO’s Imaging Services Team Announcement Image

Imaging Services Team Announcement

By Nathan Anderson on Thu, 09/01/2022 - 12:36

Please allow us to introduce our newest team in DPO’s Collections Digitization Program: The Imaging Services Team (IST).

Imaging Services is helping fill a gap in centrally provided SI services: Namely digital imaging support for annually accessioned objects (what DPO refers to as “keep-up” digitization) as well as digital imaging support for small scale collections (particularly at smaller museums and departments that lack staff photographers).

Prioritization for new projects will be for Annual Accession Digitization (AAD), Select Collections Digitization (SCD), and Pre-Mass Digitization Pilot Projects in that order as part of our operational strategy. Some projects are executed by the unit with supervision and training by Imaging Services and others are executed and undertaken by Imaging Services in-house imaging staff directly (without the use of external vendors).

    • AAD – Annual Accessions Digitization support (keep-up)
      • Digital imaging of annual accessions
      • Workflows for museum specialists assigned to digitization duties
      • Works with unit staff on delivery of all digital assets to DAMS via automated and semi-automated utilities
    • SCD – Select Collections Digitization support
      • Digital imaging for small scale collections in museums and depts
      • Streamlined and consolidated workflow for efficiency and flexibility
      • DPO IST provides photographer, equipment (camera(s), lighting, workstation)
    • Pre-MD Pilots
      • Digital imaging for pre-Mass Digitization projects
      • Develop  efficient workflows necessary for a successful future Mass Digitization Project
      • DPO IST provides photographer and equipment (camera(s), lighting, workstation)
      • Immersive digitization experience in a low-stress environment for museum staff



Annual Accessions Digitization

Annual Accessions Digitization (AAD) projects are established based on accession information provided by the museums via the annual pan-Smithsonian Collections and Digitization Reporting System (CDRS) data call. CDRS is the primary data source for the Smithsonian’s annual collections statistics.

Recently, Imaging Services started a project to support the annual accession digitization plan for the NMNH Botany Dept, which is estimated annually at 20,000 specimens compromising returned loans, newly mounted specimens, and backlogs of specimens that were not imaged during the mass digitization conveyor project.

Imaging Services is responsible for ensuring that efficient, mass digitization derived workflows are applied and that all digitized assets are delivered to our Smithsonian DAMS (Digital Asset Management System). Working with the Collection Digitization Informatics Team, we have established automated and semi-automated utilities to help handle the delivery of digital surrogates and transcribed content.

Figure 1: NMNH Botany – AAD Virtual workflow design diagram

Training for Botany staff was also provided on digitization best practices covering medium format sensor backs, capture software, color targets, and strobe lighting.

Figure 2: NMNH Botany staff imaging a specimen and resulting digitized specimen.



Select Collections Digitization

Select Collections Digitization (SCD) projects include small sub-collections that are prioritized in Unit Digitization Plans but are not amenable for Mass Digitization. SCD projects are typically one to two weeks in duration. Smithsonian units and departments lacking photographic staff are prioritized by Imaging Services.

  • Imaging Services schedules and executes SCD projects without the use of vendor contracts for maximum flexibility and minimum overhead.
  • Projects adhere to DPO-developed Item Driven Image Fidelity standards for imaging of cultural heritage collections. Imaging Services captures or oversees museum trained imaging specialists to deliver high quality digital surrogates.

The National Portrait Gallery needed imaging done of the rare William Bache Silhouette book for a new interactive online exhibit. Imaging Services completed the digitization in high-resolution as a SCD project with a museum provided art handler and conservator. The 64 pages required extensive art handling due to the fragile nature of the bound volume and the presence of arsenic which had been used as an early pesticide.

Figure 3: NPG Bache Album silhouette portrait of George Washington and art handling of the bound rare book.



Pre-Mass Digitization Pilot

As Mass digitization production projects work exclusively with vendors, the process relies on vendor timelines and contracts that sometimes may prove too costly or schedule-prohibitive for certain pilot projects. Pilots that are complex or logistically challenging, that have specific and demanding requirements, or that involve unusual or difficult-to-image items are individually considered for Imaging Services.

The Pilot Project’s main goals are twofold:

  1. To develop the efficient workflows necessary for a successful future Mass Digitization Project
  2. To provide an immersive digitization experience in a low-stress environment for museum staff

Last fall the Imaging Services team deployed and set up a multi-camera turntable system at the National Museum of African Art to capture 7 views of 929 Akan gold weights (resulting in 6,503 images). This project was extensively planned and helped introduce the museum to DPO’s workflows and automated approaches to digitization.

Figure 4: DPO Imaging Services Program Officer and photographer Nathan Anderson prepping a collection object for digitization and the resulting 7 images captured; courtesy The National Museum of African Art.


We are looking forward to sharing our ongoing digitization efforts from the Imaging Services Team!

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