Digitisation is the means of converting hard-copy or non-digital records into digital format. It can involve taking digital photographs of original records or scanning (imaging) records.
These guidelines examine the digitisation of paper-based records (including text, photographs, maps and plans).
When records are digitised they can be captured as a static picture (raster image) or they can be processed by optical character recognition (OCR) technology which produces images that are able to be searched, edited and manipulated. Alternatively records may be captured into both formats.
There are two main categories of digitisation for paper-based records:
1. Business process digitisation programs - Ongoing routine digitisation of records for daily business use.
Examples of business process digitisation programs include digitising mail, invoices, applications, submissions etc as they are received by the organisation.
2. Back-capture digitisation projects - Retrospective or project-based digitisation of existing paper records.
Examples of back-capture digitisation projects include digitising records to streamline systems, enable the destruction of original paper records, make records more accessible or to preserve old and fragile records.
These guidelines provide advice for NSW public offices on implementing sound and well structured digitisation projects and programs for records.
The guidelines promote compliance with General retention and disposal authority: imaged records, the Standard on digital recordkeeping and the Standard on the physical storage of State records.
The guidelines can also help public offices to ensure:
- the reliability and authenticity, and hence the legal admissibility and credibility of digital images
- that digital images will be accessible for as long as they are required
- that strategies are in place to create digital images fit for long-term retention
- the sound management of the original paper records.
These guidelines are divided into two main areas, one addressing business process digitisation programs and the other back-capture digitisation projects. Each guideline has been divided into a number of sections, which address different aspects of digitisation projects or programs. These sections can be read separately or as part of the broader guidelines.
Some sections in each guideline are nearly identical as issues are essentially the same for both types of digitisation. In other sections, practices or advice can differ. There is an Executive summary for each of the two guidelines.
Note: Digitisation programs and projects can differ significantly according to their size and scope, the nature of the records, how long the original paper records and the digital images need to be kept, and organisational budgets and priorities. The guidelines cannot address every scenario: they provide general advice only. Each organisation undertaking digitisation will need to assess their own situation to determine the scalability and relevance of the advice to their requirements.
C Additional resources
- Digitisation case studies
- Examples of documentation from digitisation programs and projects
- Frequently asked questions
Downloadable PDFs are available as follows:
- Downloadable version of Part A: Managing business process digitisation programs (661kb PDF)
- Downloadable version of Part B: Managing back-capture digitisation projects (783kb PDF)
In addition, a downloadable PDF versions of the executive summaries and each section of each guideline is available from the online table of contents to Parts A and B.
These guidelines do not address:
- the digitisation of analogue audio or video records - see Managing digital records 5.5 Managing audio and video recordings for advice
- the specific issues concerning the digitisation of microfilm or microfiche (although much of the back-capture guidance is still relevant to such projects)
- the management and preservation of ‘born digital’ records - see Managing digital records and the digital recordkeeping page of our website for advice.
- the specific technical parameters for particular types of paper records - if your organisation requires guidance you should seek advice from digitisation computer software and hardware vendors
- advice on systems network architecture issues relating to digitisation - your organisation should refer to their existing computer systems administration and implementation procedures.
If your organisation is intending to digitise records that are required as State archives you should refer to these guidelines but also contact State Records for further advice.
State Records does not endorse any particular providers of digitisation equipment or services, or recommend any particular digitisation hardware or software.
State Records would like to gratefully acknowledge a number of key contributors to the guidelines.
In particular we would like to thank:
- Archives New Zealand
- National Archives of Australia
- Queensland State Archives
for their kind assistance in the development of these guidelines. Much of the content has been derived from their excellent guidance on the subject (see bibliography).
The following public offices provided their advice and assistance:
- Council of the City of Sydney
- Department of Education and Communities
- Family and Community Services, Housing NSW
- University of Western Sydney
- NSW Police
The members of State Records' Digital Records Advisory Group (DRAG) contributed feedback and advice.
The following consulting firms were generous in sharing their advice and knowledge:
- Recordkeeping Innovation
- Redman Solutions
- New Zealand Micrographic Services Ltd
 Archives New Zealand, Digitisation standard, 2007, p.5, available at: http://archives.govt.nz/advice/continuum-resource-kit/continuum-publications-html/s6-digitisation-standard
 Anna Gulbransen, Advisor Government Recordkeeping Programme, Archives New Zealand, ‘Digitisation, Do it well, do it once.’ Government recordkeeping forum, Auckland 29 October 2010, available at: http://archives.govt.nz/advice/training-and-events/previous-forum-papers-html/digitisation-do-it-well-do-it-once
 Archives New Zealand, Digitisation standard, op.cit., p.9-10