Photograph of FNHL graduation photographs hung on a wall.

Hello! My name is Atreya and I am the Program Assistant at Indigitization and a current library student at UBC. I started with Indigitization in August 2022 and this past spring I was able to complete a full digitization project for one of my courses in collaboration with Indigitization, Xwi7xwa Library, and the First Nations House of Learning (FNHL). Emma, my friend and student librarian at Xwi7xwa, and I digitized FNHL’s graduation photographs from 1978 to 2010. Having been at Indigitization, soaking up information about both the practical and cultural aspects of digitization, it was exciting to be able to gain hands-on experience with digitizing. 

For those who may be starting their first digitization project or just want to learn about the process, here are some of the biggest takeaways that Emma and I learned: 

  1. Have a buddy! It was so useful to have somebody to check in with throughout the project, whether to help with framing and unframing the photographs or to get a second opinion on Photoshop editing. If a project doesn’t have the budget for more than one person digitizing, try to find someone who is willing to check in and offer guidance.
  2. Plan for surprises! Surprises can be both exciting and challenging when you encounter them; Emma and I discovered that some photographs included hand-written post-it notes with information on where the photograph or graduating class had been published in the NITEP News or the Vancouver Sun, which meant more time digitizing and creating metadata that we weren’t anticipating, but leads me to my second point that you should…  
  3. Take time to engage with the materials you are working with. In our case, we got to look at lovely graduation photographs and appreciate someone’s awesome outfit or beautiful names, and in one photo, someone’s adorable kid. Taking the time to really look at the photographs made the digitizing process much more enjoyable and made us aware of the impact of our work. 
  4. Sun damage can be extreme! We knew going into this project that the photographs had been placed in direct sunlight, but we didn’t anticipate just how much damage had been done. Many of the photographs had faded to black and white on the surface, only for us to discover bright colours in areas where the sun didn’t reach. We did our best to bring back some colour using Photoshop, but it goes to show how important it is to keep your valuable photographs out of the sun!
  5. File management is essential. For the more technical side of the project, I cannot emphasize enough how important file management was in our project. Because we were new to the project, our file naming system was not the best or entirely consistent while we were digitizing our first few photographs, which meant we had to go back and rename many files at the end of our project. Luckily for you, Indigiziation has an entire guide to file management, so make sure to check that out!

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