Digitizing Collections: File Formats Matter

Posted on Posted in Technology

Creating a digital record of your collection of artworks, artifacts or scientific specimens is a time-consuming process.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if all that effort and time was wasted, if in the future you could not use access those digital files?!

Recently I threw out a large collection of VHS tapes and 3.5″ floppy disks that I was saving from the 1980s because they had information valuable to me at the time. Sadly I don’t even know what was on them, since I have no way to read this media.  The same may be true of your digital collection if you are using proprietary data formats!

We don’t take that chance; at MIGHTYmacro we make ultra-high resolution images of the finest details of your collections. To make sure you can access this data whenever you need it we provide files in the most common file formats for imaging including JPG, TIFF, PSB and PSD.  In most cases we will provide all of them, so you have options today – and in the future – on how to access your data.

Each of these file formats has advantages and limitations from an imaging standpoint. (Learn more about file formats here at Wikipedia.) These formats are today’s most common imaging formats so you can be confident that they will be well supported for the foreseeable future.

Other systems for digitizing specimens often store data in their own proprietary file formats (such as Leica LIF file format and Zeiss CZI format).  I understand why they do this; they want you to continue needing their systems to access your data.

However, we believe that you should be able to do what ever you want with your data.  That’s why we use the standard data formats listed above.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS Data) has the following recommendation when planning digital archives:

The safest way to reduce the risk of data loss is to convert data formats into open formats that are non-proprietary

The UK Data Archive similarly recommends:

The safest option to guarantee long-term data access and usable data is to convert data to standard formats that most software are capable of interpreting, and that are suitable for data interchange and transformation

At MIGHTYmacro we can provide data to our clients in a range of standard formats, depending on their needs. The image shown in this blog post is a 1.34 gigapixel image of operational wings given to Canadian pilots in WWII upon completion of 30 missions. We are happy to provide the following data to our client for this image:

  • All 14,859 original images in JPG format
  • 117 focus stacked images in JPG or TIFF format
  • Full resolution stitched image in PSB, PSD, TIFF and/or JPG depending on file size

Having all the original data in standard formats affords maximum compatibility. You’re investing a lot of time and money to create a digital record of your archive.  Protect your investment by making sure your data is accessible today and in the future with universally accepted standard data formats.  Check out how we save you time by automating most of image capturing and post-processing.

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