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Is Beauty Truly in the Eye of the Beholder? – Not When it Comes to Image Quality

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” This saying, which is believed to have first appeared in Greek in the third century, notes that the perception of beauty is subjective.  What one person finds beautiful, another may not.

The clothing styles of the 1980s are a good case in point.

But there is no room for differences of opinion when it comes to archiving cultural content by the Library of Congress or the National Archives. That was the genesis of the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiatives (FADGI).

Launched in 2007, FADGI is an effort by federal agencies to articulate a common set of technical guidelines, methods, and practices for digitized and born-digital historical archival, and culture content.

These standards took on a greater sense of urgency with the U.S. government’s initiative to stop the flow of analog materials into the National Archives after 2022, in favor of electronic records.

FADGI breaks new ground by setting concrete measurable targets for federal agencies to hit.  Weighing in at nearly 100 pages, the FADGI guidelines cover file specifications, color encoding, data storage, physical environment, backup strategies, metadata, and workflows.  It is anticipated that the FADGI guidelines will evolve over time to reflect advances in the field of image capture.

Image quality is understandably a big part of the FADGI guidelines.  No one wants a blurry copy of the United States Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution.

FADGI uses a star system to rate image quality:

  • One-star rating: Should be considered informational, in that images are not of sufficient quality to be useful for optical character recognition (OCR).
  • Two-star rating: Images may or may not be suitable for OCR
  • Three-star rating: A very good professional image capable of serving for almost all uses.
  • Four-star rating: Images represent the state-of-the-art in image capture and are suitable for almost any use.

No subjectivity here.

Establishing common guidelines for image quality and other variables makes it easier for agencies to exchange content, facilitate collaboration on digital projects among federal agencies and other institutions, and ensure that the products that agencies provide the public will be of uniform quality.

While most organizations do not process content on behalf of the Library of Congress or the National Archives, they can still gain value from the digitization standards being created by FADGI.

For starters, the FADGI guidelines establish a standard for creating archival files for long-term retention and online access.  The guidelines include detailed charts for capturing different types of content.  Setting standards for capturing information in a consistent, efficient, and scalable way is valuable whether the content is destined for preservation alongside our nation’s treasured documents or it is integral to determining the creditworthiness of a loan application or other back-office process.

The FADGI guidelines also take a lot of the guesswork out of determining which scanning technologies will deliver the best resolution and color accuracy for a digital transformation project.  Every scanner claims to be “the best.”  But not all scanners can meet FADGI’s three-star rating requirements as the ibml Fusion does.

It is no wonder that FADGI guidelines are popping up in more bid specifications for digitization projects from government entities and educational institutions, as well as service bureaus and businesses.  These organizations recognize the value of standards for digital transformation success.

FADGI standards also serve as common benchmarks for scanner and software manufacturers.

From the start, ibml has been committed to delivering hardware and software that meets or exceeds the highest standards for digital technologies.  With the release of the ibml Fusion document scanners, we are taking greater strides towards helping our customers – whether they are federal agencies, service bureaus, or businesses – comply with their digital conversion requirements.

ibml believes that image quality, unlike the appeal of parachute pants, is not subjective.

To learn more about how ibml is meeting FADGI standards

Consult an Expert

The ibml FADGI Reference Guide

The information management professionals tool for ensuring image quality.

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