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Digitization Standards and Guidelines

In order to broaden access to the Archives’ collections, and reduce the impact of frequent handling, the Archives is digitizing its most valuable and used collections. High-resolution surrogates of the Archives’ digitized collections are created and available online for researchers, scholars and the public to view, and download for personal and educational purposes.

Digital Initiatives uses federal and PAFA-wide standards and best practices whenever possible in order to make our collections consistent with digital collections across the country, and to facilitate efficient workflows. We exercise flexibility based on the need of the project. The type of material, donor requirements, target audience, intended use, and funding availability are all factors in the decisions for individual projects. The materials in the Archives’ collections vary in fragility. The handling and light necessary for digitization contribute to the wear and tear of collections.

The Archives employs digital curation methodologies and standards to avoid repeated digitization. The outcome are high resolution images in preservation quality digital file formats. The Archives’ metadata standards ensure descriptive and technical characteristics are noted in its collection management system and embedded in the surrogate files as appropriate. Access derivatives are created from the digital preservation masters to fulfill reference requests and public interest.

The specifications are followed when digitizing materials such as photographs, negatives, documents, manuscripts, diaries and books.


  • 6,000 pixels on the long axis of the image
  • Minimum value is 600 ppi (pixels per inch), increasing resolution in intervals of 25 ppi as necessary to achieve a minimum of 6,000 pixels along the long axis.

Digital File Format 

  • Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) using Windows (PC) byte orientation
  • For color images, a 48bit RGB setting is used, yielding 16 bits per color channel.
  • For black and white images, a 24 bit RGB setting is used. 

File Compression

  • None