Have you ever wondered why the manuscript digitization you are currently doing is not yielding great results?

We also faced this in the beginning, but not anymore.

See, manuscript digitization is the process in which rare and old manuscripts are converted to digital file formats so they can be shared online by users from all parts of the world.

Rule 1: Always use a specialized book scanner

Yes, you have heard this right. Always use a scanning equipment that is built specifically for bound documents. We call these equipment book scanners.

These are the only equipment that should be used for digital preservation of manuscripts. If you find a case study on the digital preservation of manuscripts that do not involve such equipment, please avoid it. Most likely, those that have created it do not know much about this subject.

These machines are specifically designed to scan rare and fragile material, such as valuable manuscripts. Usually, they scan face up, and the user only has to flip the pages one by one through the process.

Another interesting aspect is that they also use special light that does not affect old paper or ink.

Rule 2: Before scanning do a careful maintenance of the manuscript

This means removing dust, lint or anything else that might affect the scanning process. Such maintenance of the manuscript should be performed occasionally, even if no scanning is involved.

Most likely, you will be scanning more manuscripts at the same time. The better you clean all of them, the smoother the entire process will be.

If you don’t do this correctly, you risk stopping the scanning process too often to perform on the fly cleaning of the equipment.

Another thing you might have to do is frequent rescans. These occur when for some reason or another, the scanning process of a certain page did not go according to plan.

In most cases, this happens because of dust, dirt or even lint found on books. So it all comes back to manuscript cleaning and maintenance.

Rule 3: Frequent maintenance of the digitization equipment

To convert to digital manuscripts you require digital scanners. It’s not enough to have them, you also have to maintain them correctly.

So regular cleaning is mandatory, and further checks should be done after that.

Check first of all for dust or lint on the scanning glass and mirrors. On rare occasions, this might also be on the sensors, but it doesn’t happen too often.

Remember, manuscripts are fragile and old, you have limited tries to scan them correctly. The better the maintenance, the less rescans you will need for the proper results.

The second part of the maintenance requires frequent replacement of light modules or other moving parts. The book scanner itself is a “living” thing.

It has small bits and pieces that can affect the quality of the scan. Learn what those are, check their lifespan and then swap accordingly.

Regular quality checks should be done. This aids the scanning process and results in high quality digitized manuscripts.

Rule 4: Experienced digitization operators go a long way

You don’t hear many people talking about the quality of human resources when it comes to digitization. Same goes for the digitization of manuscripts. Not that many project managers are interested.

But in reality, an experienced operator always knows how to approach every single manuscript he has to scan. As we already mentioned, you won’t have many tries to scan the manuscript, otherwise, you risk damaging it.

If your operator has more experience, he will know what to do and how to do it. This way, you won’t have many rescans, which affect productivity but can also harm the manuscript itself.

Less experienced operators will definitely use more tries to do the scanning properly. Whether there will be a focus problem, dust, lint or even dirt affecting the scan, an experienced operator will notice it quickly.

The one with less experience will struggle initially. So take care of your operators and they will take care of you.

Rule 5: Make a digitization plan for your manuscripts

Maybe this should have been rule number 1, but I guess it only works if you have to scan frequently.

There will be projects in which you have to scan hundreds of manuscripts at once. Believe me, that is a lot of work.

If you are not well organized, no matter what you do or what digitization equipment you use, it will be more difficult than it should be.

So think on your feet and start to build a list with the titles you need to digitize. You should have a total count of how many manuscripts need to be digitized. If you can also count the total pages, that would be a bonus.

Second of all, you will have to check the condition of each one of the manuscripts. Mark those that can’t be scanned for whatever reason and also note down the reason. It will help you later.

Scan those that can be easily scanned first so you can clear them out of the way. After that take those with issues and handle them one by one.

In the end, do a recount and compare what you scanned with what is on the list. They should match.

Is this enough to do perfect manuscript digitization?

Yes and no. Yes, because these rules will take you a long way. No, because you still have to practice some of the aspects of these rules.

I can’t consider the digitization process of manuscripts to be something difficult in itself. Having said that, it does require some time and practice to get used to it.

You will notice that as you go along, you get better day by day, and book by book. It might happen that you discover and add new rules to our article and your work routine.

So we look forward to hearing from you about other things we should pay attention to when digitizing manuscripts.

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