4 standards for digitising artefacts

There are various reasons that museums and heritage institutions digitise physical artefacts. From preserving ancient and fragile assets for the long term to promoting them to a global audience, it’s an essential part of the work these organisations do.

Just as there are standards for how metadata is used to describe assets, there are also global standards for the digitisation and archival of assets.

In this article we’re going to look at four frameworks that are specifically used for physical artefacts.

The ISO OAIS Reference Model

Originally developed for space agencies, the ISO Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model has since proved valuable for a range of organisations and institutions that work with digital archiving.

The main drive behind OAIS was to develop an open system to ensure preservation - this means that the model needed to be available in public forums. As Brian Lavoie puts it, the use of the word ‘open’ in OAIS refers to the fact that the model and future recommendations associated with it are developed in these open forums; it doesn’t “make any presuppositions concerning the level of accessibility of information in the archive”

The model supports the development of additional digital preservation standards because it’s designed as a conceptual framework. This means it doesn’t rely on any particular kind of technology or interface in order to be accessed.

The OAIS standard has been considered the optimum standard to create and maintain digital repositories since its publication in 2005.

Preservation Metadata: Implementation Strategies (PREMIS)

Physical artefacts are digitised to ensure their long term preservation, but the digital object also needs to be maintained. This is where PREMIS comes in.

The PREMIS Data Dictionary for Preservation Metadata is an international standard for metadata that’s been designed specifically to support the preservation of digital objects, and is implemented in digital preservation projects all over the world. PREMIS defines a set of metadata that most repositories of digital objects would need to record and use in order to preserve those objects for the long term. This preservation metadata can be categorised as ‘administrative’, ‘technical’ and ‘structural’, but more specifically as metadata that supports core aspects of preservation: making sure the objects remain viable, renderable, understandable, authentic, and can be uniquely identified.

According to ‘Understanding PREMIS’, "the primary uses of PREMIS are for repository design, repository evaluation and exchange of archived information packages among preservation repositories."

PREMIS consists of the Data Dictionary and an XML schema, along with support documentation and a working group, where revisions are co-ordinated by the PREMIS Editorial Committee.

Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI)

The Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI) offers a “sustainable set of technical guidelines, methods and practices for digitised and born-digital historical, archival and cultural content.”

The aim of FADGI is to enhance the exchange of research, encourage collaboration between U.S. federal agencies and institutions, and ensure consistent quality. The guidelines include criteria for assessing digital image quality for a variety of different object types, including rare and special materials, manuscripts, artwork, and transmissive materials such as film and x-ray.


Metamorfoze is the Netherlands’ national programme for the preservation of paper heritage. As well as co-ordinating projects and providing advice to participating institutions, Metamorfoze is also involved in setting up research, building contacts within Dutch and international organisations, and sharing information.

As a part of this work, the Metamorfoze Preservation Imaging Guidelines set out the requirements for preservation images commissioned for Metamorfoze.

Want to find out how ResourceSpace can support the digitisation of your institution’s physical artefacts? Speak to one of our Digital Asset Management (DAM) experts today, or book your free, no obligation demo of the system below.

Book Your Free Demo

A no obligation tour of our DAM system