Contact Preservation.

Guidelines for Digital Capture

1. Selecting the Proper Scanning Method

Materials that can be safely inverted on a flatbed include

  • Copy negatives
  • Photographic prints in good condition
  • Flat paper in good condition with stable media
  • Items in sleeves (a good idea for materials that are fragile)
  • Pamphlets and sheet music in good condition
  • Bound materials that will open 180 degrees
  • Clean the platen using a “screen cleaner” (50:50 distilled water and isopropyl alcohol)

Never use a document feed scanner, as documents often tear and/or become jammed in the rollers.

Use overhead equipment with

  • Books that do not easily open flat to 180 degrees
  • Photographs adhered to board mounts
  • Anything that cannot be pressed flat safely (paintings? framed photos?)
  • Anything too large to be turned over safely
  • Anything larger than the dimensions of the scanner bed

Use the photographic setup

  • When the purpose is high end copy work for quality printing or capture of finest details
  • For very large (up to 18 x 24”) objects
  • With objects that have a high sensitivity to physical damage

NOTE: All work should be done under ambient fluorescent lighting until the setup is complete to prevent damage from high light levels and radiant heating

2. Books

How to Scan:

  • Support the sides of books that appear to have weak bindings or do not open a full 180 degrees
  • Never force a spine open or apply hard or abrupt pressure to pages to open them
  • Do not invert if the book is
    • Larger than 11 x 17”
    • Thicker than 4”
    • The cover attachment is weak
    • The pages are brittle, it is breaking at the spine, or the margins are less than 3/8”
    • There are loose pages, the sewing is broken and the sections are loose, or the sewing is weak and the book opens easily
    • It only opens to 90 degrees (cannot scan)
    • Other considerations: There may be foldouts, color illustrations, and halftone illustrations that could impact your decision for equipment and settings. Also, if the book is tightly bound you may want to use the book cradle to minimize gutter shadow.

    3. Flat Paper

    Examples: Sheet music, artwork, photographs, maps, correspondence, reports, plans, charts, forms, faxes, etc.

    How to Scan:

    • Use a face down scanner unless the item is larger than the scanning bed or the media is fragile/friable (e.g., pastels)
    • Use an overhead scanner or photographic camera set up for paintings and photographs or other images mounted on board (may be heavy/board may be brittle)
    • Objects in poor condition (brittle, torn), or oversize paper materials such as maps can be put inside a Mylar sleeve with a cardboard backing, as required, to provide additional support during the scanning process
    • Turn over large objects between two sheets of sturdy board; get help if you need it; make sure you have enough room to safely manipulate the object in your work space
    • Photos - do not clean/repair photographs (consult Preservation) – these can be copied in their plastic enclosure – handle by the edges only and don’t blow on them (avoid saliva!)
    • Keep archival materials in order


    • Remove any staples or pins; be careful about historical attachments such as seals
    • Contact conservation if the work is badly wrinkled or crumpled or there are other condition problems preventing quality capture

    Consult Preservation for care and handling instructions if you are planning a conversion project of phonodiscs, reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, or moving images.