How can I find out more about fragile and historical document scanning?
Fragile and historical documents can consist of anything from university collections to personal or institutional documents from past generations. Examples include handwritten letters, birth certificates, newspaper clippings or old photographs. National archives are another important source of historical and valuable material which must be preserved for all time. Scanning these archives also allows the information to be made available to a worldwide audience via a website.
The reasons why historical documents are scanned do vary but essentially it is because they are treasured either by a nation or just families and in some cases are irreplaceable should they get stolen or destroyed. Over a period of time paper also deteriorates and can become illegible or even disintegrate altogether.
On account of its age this kind of material is often fragile and must be handled with care. During the scanning process white gloves should be worn and the amount of physical contact with the documents kept to a minimum. A flatbed scanner should be used as an ADF (automatic document feeder) would be too damaging because of the speed at which it operates.
Another advantage of scanning historical documents is that OCR can be applied to the scanned images making the text fully searchable. This is particularly useful for research papers or meeting minutes as information can be found in seconds. It is worth noting, however, that, although OCR technology has improved considerably in recent years, it still only works well on typewritten text. It can be effective on handwriting but is far less accurate.