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Digital Project Planning Basics

by on March 15, 2012

There are some basic principles whenever you are starting a “project”, regardless of if it’s a digitization project or not. Even if you are doing the project on your own, taking a few moments to think through some of this stuff can help prevent problems in the future.


Projects can get out of hand if you let them. You may start out wanting to scan a box of family photos, and all the sudden everyone around you is handing you more and more boxes to scan while you are at it. It may be that Grandmother expects you to scan all of her books in addition to her documents.

When you are first starting out, make sure you can identify exactly what you are going to do. If other people are involved, make sure they are clear on what you will and won’t do. Change this scope only after considering how it will affect your time and budget.

When you accept changes to your scope without thinking about it, it is called scope creep.


Think about how much time and money you actually have to dedicate to your digitization project. You will attack things very differently if you have $100 to spend than if you had $1000. You will plan things differently if you have an hour a day verses all day to do a project. You may not always know what you need when you start out, but at least define your maximum limits. “I will not spend over $500 and I won’t take more than two months”. Such a simple statement can make all the difference when looking at equipment.


If other people are involved or interested, you might need to develop a communication method. You might be able to communicate just in person, or by email. If your project is going to take a while, you might start a blog. Try to identify what people want to know, and then find out appropriate ways of getting that information to them. It might be that you create an overall schedule and share that, and that’s all you need to do. It could be that Aunt Emily needs to know to bring you her photo albums in March because you don’t have enough room in your apartment to store them till then. How are you going to communicate that need to her?


Copyright and Intellectual property is an important part of any project of any size. When you are looking at what you are going to do it’s a good time to look at the copyright status of the items you are working with.

Since we are not lawyers, we suggest that if you have questions you should contact a copyright lawyer. Any information provided here is purely advice, and will not protect you against a lawsuit. When in doubt, contact a lawyer.

If you’d like to read more about copyright, please visit the U.S. Government Copyright Office’s pages.


The law of Copyright and the doctrine of fair use only apply to things that are within copyright. The body of work that is outside of copyright is called Public Domain. These items belong to the general public to a certain extent. This is why you can find free eBooks of many older texts. What is and isn’t in the public domain can be tricky so be careful in evaluating works for their status.

Conrnell has great resources for copyright in general, but their section on public domain is particularly good.


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