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Recommendations for Digitization of Archives
An Erowid Center Policy Statement
by Erowid
Jun 2010
Citation:   Erowid. "Recommendations for Digitization of Archives: An Erowid Center Policy Statement". Erowid Extracts. Nov 2010;18:20.
GOAL: To preserve important collections of psychoactive-related documents by archiving them online for maximum public accessibility across distance and time.

As the vanguard of psychedelic researchers and enthusiasts age, many are faced with the question of what to do with their collections of physical documents and artifacts related to psychoactives. Sometimes this question arises as end-of-life is being contemplated; other times it results from a change in interests or practical issues related to storage space or other physical constraints.
Erowid Center believes that creating and publishing a well-organized, high-quality digital archive is an important counterpart to the secure archiving of physical documents. Digital archives are faster to access and significantly easier to search than physical collections, adding value to physical collections as well as making documents and data available for everyone unable to travel to the original documents. Digital versions can also assist researchers planning a trip to an archive library by providing previews that help determine which items should be viewed during limited time on site.
As part of its mission, Erowid Center coordinates and/or assists with the digitization of select document collections pertinent to the science, culture, and history of psychoactive substances.
Creating and publishing a well-organized high-quality digital archive is an important counterpart to the secure archiving of physical documents.
The general steps of our digitization process include:
  1. Estimating the cost and duration of the digitization process
  2. Retrieving the physical collection
  3. Sorting and taking inventory of the collection
  4. Evaluating what portion of the collection is sensitive and therefore will require trusted review before scanning and/or public access may be allowed
  5. Setting standards for document treatment, scan quality, and OCR options
  6. Selecting and arranging for specialists to scan and OCR the documents
  7. Arranging for the special treatment of delicate or sensitive items
  8. Auditing the post-scanned materials to confirm that the collection remains complete and in its original condition
  9. Returning the physical collection to its owner or caretaker, organized and in secure, durable packaging
In cases where a collection includes recordings as well as written documents, every effort is made to retrieve and digitize this data and restore it to usable condition. This includes reel-to-reel, cassette, and vinyl audio recordings, as well as film, video, and photographs.
Once digital versions (such as PDFs) have been created from paper documents, they undergo their next stage in the process: they are organized and catalogued in a searchable database, which becomes part of the permanent Erowid Center online collection of documents, viewable at no cost to anyone with an Internet connection.
Erowid Center would like to encourage organizations and individuals who value the preservation of humankind's collective psychoactive heritage to seriously consider the advantages of ubiquitous Internet access to data, which can facilitate wider inquiry into the history of psychoactive substances.
Some important collections have been partially or wholly lost to natural disasters or the strain of poor storage. If your collection of papers, books, and other documents is one that future generations may want to access, please take steps to arrange for its digitization.
PROJECTS COMPLETED: In 2001, Erowid finished the digital archiving of the Albert Hofmann Collection, consisting of approximately 4,300 documents. Around 800 people view documents from this collection each day (300,000 per year).