Cultural heritage organizations that wish to participate in CVL Collections need to have at least one collection in a digital format, ready to be uploaded and cataloged in a digital collection management system.

We realize that for many of our future partners, digitization might be a new process. While the Colorado State Library does not provide direct support for digitization, we can consult with you on your collection and steps for moving forward with your project. We also encourage you to look for partners in your area that have expertise in digitization.

What follows is an introduction to digitization with recommendations from professional organizations on the digitization workflow.

Introduction to Digitization

Digitization is not simply making a digital copy of an object. It is a process of collecting, reformatting, cataloging, storing, and sharing digital objects. There are many online resources that can help you understand the digitization process, and we certainly encourage you to explore them. However, if you are new to digitization, you may find that some online resources are overly complex for your immediate needs; that is why we created this toolkit, to help simplify some of the steps in this process.

Digitization Steps

The digitization workflow can be broken down into four steps: Select, Digital Capture, Catalog and Share. Your organization will Select an appropriate collection to digitize, then Digitally Capture the objects, meaning you will create digital surrogates by scanning, photographing, and converting them.

The Colorado State Library will provide training on how to Catalog your objects using metadata standards aligned with the PPC and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). You will then Share your collection’s metadata with the PPC from a content management system or a CSV file.

Further Reading on the Digitization Process

Step 1 – Select

Selecting a collection to digitize is a multi-faceted process that takes into account copyright, the institution’s collection development policy, and its current and potential users, among other factors.

If this is your first digitization project, we recommend starting with a single, manageable collection that has special resonance with your community or that is historically significant. By starting with a focused, manageable project, you will develop a workflow and expertise that will help you with bigger projects in the future.

Further Reading on Selecting Collections


Any digitization project should begin with a discussion of copyright and what your institution is able and willing to reproduce and make available online. There are many approaches to assessing and addressing copyright in digitization projects. Ultimately, copyright decisions are made by the contributing institution; your consultant at the State Library can discuss copyright questions with you but cannot provide legal counsel or similar recommendations.

For organizations new to digitization, it may be easiest to start with materials in the public domain. Another option is to digitize materials that are protected by copyright but with the appropriate permissions secured.

Quick References to Determine Copyright Status
Further Reading on Copyright

Step 2 – Digital Capture

Once you have selected your first collection, you will need to choose whether to digitally capture your objects using in-house staff and equipment, or whether you will outsource this work to vendors. If you choose to do this work in-house, you will need to purchase or borrow equipment suitable for creating quality digital objects. We strongly encourage you to partner with organizations in your area that already have equipment and expertise in digital collections.


Below are digitization vendors that our partners have worked with in the past. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it an endorsement of these vendors. You are encouraged to do your own research. Keep in mind that for very large projects you may need to go through a formal bidding process to select a vendor.

Recommended Standards for Digital Capture

Adapted from BCR best practices

Bit Depth16 bit grayscale

48 bit color

8 bit grayscale

24 bit color

8 bit grayscale

24 bit color

Spatial Resolution400 to 800 PPI150 to 200 PPI144 PPI
Spatial Dimensions4000 to 8000 pixels across the long dimension, excluding mounts and borders600 pixels across the long dimension150 to 200 pixels across the long dimension
Bit Depth48 bit color24 bit color24 bit color
Spatial ResolutionDevice Maximum300 PPI144 PPI
Spatial Dimensions100% of original600 pixels across the long dimension150-200 pixels across the long dimension
Bit Depth1 bit bitonal

8 to 16 bit grayscale

48 bit color

8 bit grayscale

24 bit color

8 bit grayscale

24 bit color

Spatial ResolutionAdjust scan resolution to produce a minimum pixel measurement across the long dimension of 6,000 lines for 1 bit files and 4,000 lines for 8 to 16 bit files.150 to 200 PPI144 PPI
Spatial Dimension4000 to 6000 pixels across the long dimension600 pixels across the long dimension150 to 200 pixels across the long dimension

Record as uncompressed Wav files at a minimum quality setting of 16-bit/44.1KHz.

File FormatWavMP3 

Storage and File Management Considerations

  • Where will the files reside?
  • Will you need to purchase a server?
  • Backup/disaster recovery: two copies of all digital files are recommended, one stored off-site.
  • Use a consistent file naming convention.

Basic Equipment and Software Recommendations

Further Reading on Digital Capture & Oral History

Step 3 – Catalog

Cataloging is the process of describing the items in your collection using specific fields and standards. The descriptive information you create during the cataloging process is called metadata, and it includes such information as Title, Description, Subject, and Date. Your consultant at the Colorado State Library will guide you on the best practices for cataloging and creating metadata that conforms to the requirements of the Plains to Peaks Collective (PPC).

Further Reading on Cataloging and Metadata

Step 4 – Share

In order to share you digital collections, you will need to publish them online using a content management system (CMS). Common CMS products are ContentDM, Islandora, PastPerfect Online, and Omeka. This is where CVL Collections come in! If your organization does not have its own CMS, or access to a CMS through a consortial group such as Marmot, CVL Collections can help you implement an instance of Omeka, where you can publish your content online.

Once your collections have been published through a CMS, you are ready to start sharing your metadata with the PPC.


Your costs associated with digitization will vary according to how you perform the digitization work, plus staff time and training needs. Be aware that some of these costs might be ongoing.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Will you be doing the digitization work in-house or outsourcing it to a vendor?
  • What are your vendor costs?
  • Will you need to purchase or rent any digitization equipment?
  • Will you purchase a proprietary CMS or pay a vendor to support an open-source CMS? Or will you pay a membership fee to join a consortial CMS?
  • Will you need to purchase or upgrade any parts of your technology infrastructure?
  • Will you need to migrate digital content from an existing platform?
  • Will you be working exclusively with public domain items, or will you need to perform rights management work?
  • How much training will your staff need, and where will they get that training?
  • How much staff time will be needed for cataloging?

Further Reading on Cost