Case Study – Digitization Project (UCSD)

Case Study – Digitization Project

Robert Glasheen Photograph Collection

I. Overview

Collection type:

Photographs & negatives of professional photographer Robert Glasheen.

Extent and scope:

Approximately 7800 negatives and 500 photographic prints,

 were selected for digitization. Images include campus events; campus buildings and views; and aerial views of the UCSD campus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and parts of La Jolla.


In preparation for UCSD’s 50th Anniversary in 2010, a push was made to digitize materials related to campus history; the Robert Glasheen Photograph Collection was selected to be digitized as part of that project. The physical collection had previously been processed, described in both a MARC record & a traditional finding aid. The prints were arranged primarily by subject, with miscellaneous and oversize photographs arranged separately. Negatives and transparencies were sorted by format and stored in a separate negative archive, in original roll/frame order.

II. Approach


The decision was made to digitize from the collection’s original negatives & transparencies, which ranged in format from 35mm black & white negatives to 4×5 color transparencies. Approximately 500 prints, for which there were no negatives, were also scanned. Portraits were excluded from scanning, as there were many nearly identical images that selection would have slowed down the project. Also, the collection finding aid contains a detailed list of these portraits.


The negatives were grouped by format and sent to an outside vendor in batches. The batches were sent based the vendor’s workflow, with the vendor taking a month to digitize each batch.

An Access database was used to create descriptive metadata. While each frame was assigned a unique identifier, a descriptive title was only given at the roll level. (There are a few exceptions, for example when two different events are captured on a single roll of film.) The titles are done at a very surface level and are often general (ex. “Atkinson inauguration” or “Chancellor’s Associates party”). A category field was also used, which mimicked description used in the finding aid (ex. “Events” or “Buildings and Grounds”). Additional information was added by the University Archivist in some cases, when it was deemed necessary or important.

Ultimately, the images and metadata were ingested into UCSD’s local Digital Access Management System (DAMS). Any future changes to the descriptive metadata will be made in the DAMS, not the Access database.


Images from the Glasheen Collection can be found in the UCSD Digital Library Collections website, the public interface to the UCSD DAMS:

Images are also displayed on UCSD’s history site, which pulls images from the UCSD DAMS. (Select – Limit by “Glasheen Photograph Collection”)          

The ultimate goal of the project is to enable image tagging to enhance description. There is also a plan to allow each film roll to be view as a contact sheet, giving context to each image.

III. Project Timeline

Over 8,300 images were digitized and made available online in approximately one year.

IV. Pros and Cons


  • Description at the roll level alleviated time and effort. The speed at which the project was completed made content available in time for the University’s 50th anniversary.


  • This level of description worked for the project as Glasheen was a professional photographer for the University and photographed consistently. If the rolls had consisted of random images, this approach would not have worked.
  • Titles are often generic and specific places and people are not always described limiting keyword searching capabilities.

Version 3.0. Last reviewed: August 20, 2012