Digitizing Records: Getting Started

Digital Imaging Lab [technologies] at Archives 2–[photographed for] Prologue use.
National Archives Identifier: 184340999

We continue our series of posts to support the publication of 36 CFR section 1236 subpart E – Digitizing Permanent Records, which provides the requirements for digitizing permanent records. Records management is a crucial part of any agency operation, and the rise of digital technology has led many agencies to digitize their records for improved efficiency and accessibility. A successful digitization project begins with some basic records management requirements.

Intellectual Control

Before embarking on a digitization project, several requirements must be met to protect the integrity and security of the records. The first step is establishing intellectual control of the records to be digitized, which includes creating an inventory to identify the records’ completeness, any gaps in coverage or missing records, the presence of mixed-media records, the disposition schedule, date range, access or use restrictions, and storage location.

Physical Control

Physical control is also crucial, as understanding the source records’ physical characteristics will determine the project’s scope and the image capture techniques and equipment to be used. Agencies must also identify any relationships between the source records to ensure that these relationships are also retained in the digitized versions. If there are born-digital records as part of the record series within the project, agencies must follow the instructions for managing mixed-media records in § 1236.52.

It is important to get a handle on records management requirements at the start of a digitization project in order to make good decisions about how to manage records before, during, and after digitization. By following these records management requirements, organizations can ensure their digitization projects are successful and compliant with 36 CFR section 1236 subpart E and other relevant laws and regulations.