The Collections Digitization Program at the Smithsonian Institution is dedicated to advancing the digitization of its extensive collections through three key teams: Mass Digitization, Imaging Services, and Informatics.
Mass Digitization aims to digitize large museum collections efficiently without sacrificing image quality or object care. This method employs three major workflows: physical, imaging, and virtual, designed to handle objects safely, optimize capture throughputs, and automate image delivery. Guiding principles include comprehensive end-to-end processes, high-volume work for economies of scale, relentless pursuit of efficiency, and robust project management. Our innovative Item Driven Image Fidelity (IDIF) wherein we determine the optimal resolvable resolution for a project, and institution-wide infrastructure, create sustainable, repeatable results. To date, over 5.4 million items have been successfully digitized.
Imaging Services acts as a focal point in the Smithsonian Institution for photographic support. Addressing a crucial need within the Smithsonian Institution by providing digital imaging support for annually accessioned objects (referred to as "keep-up" digitization) and for small-scale collections, particularly in smaller museums and departments lacking staff photographers. These projects may be executed by the unit under the supervision and training of Imaging Services, or directly undertaken by Imaging Services' in-house imaging staff, without the involvement of external vendors.
In the Informatics team, we provide essential support for informatics projects that involve enriching or creating digital records, supported by guidance, funding, and in-kind resources from the DPO. Our approach focuses on scalability, automation, interconnectivity, innovation, machine learning, open-source software, and reusable solutions. We prioritize workflows capable of handling large volumes of records, automating tedious tasks, and establishing seamless data transfer between systems. Research into cutting-edge tools and technologies, including AI, allows us to enhance images and records. We promote transparency through open-source software and develop adaptable solutions for broader applications across projects and institutions.
Beyond digitization, the program aims to streamline operations, leverage technology, and integrate digitization seamlessly into the Smithsonian's daily functions. This effort ensures global access to the institution's vast knowledge, advancing its mission of increasing and diffusing knowledge. By making collections available online, researchers, educators, curators, historians, activists, artists, and students can study items in-depth and in high resolution regardless of their location.
Collections Digitization Dashboard
To view our digitization progress: https://shiny.si.edu/massdigi/