Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

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Frequently Asked Questions




What is Iowa Heritage Digital Collections (IHDC)?

The Iowa Heritage Digital Collections is an online repository of Iowa history and culture created by bringing together in digital form documents, images, maps, finding aids, interpretive and educational materials, and other media from collections held by a wide range of organizations throughout Iowa.

Who can participate?

Libraries, historical societies, museums, and archives. Smaller institutions, including local historical societies and museums, may choose to partner with their local public library or a larger museum.

How is a collection in IHDC created?

There are two ways to participate for organizations which agree to contribute digital collection(s) along with metadata about each item in the collection.

1. The organization creates a collection using the Omeka software provided by the State Library. The digital collection is stored on the State Library's servers.

2. The organization creates digital collections using any software that is OAI-PMI compliant and makes the collection 'harvestable' for the Omkea software that runs the IHDC.

What are the typical items from a collection that may be contributed?

Some of the items already contributed include photos, postcards, letters, diaries, maps, ephemera, and even short audio and images of 3-D objects. The IHDC is currently unable to host video, but the IHDC could harvest the metadata for the video with links to a host server for the video.

What is the State Library of Iowa's role in the IHDC?

The State Library is responsible for maintaining the software that runs the IHDC, the server to store the lower-resolution image files and high speed bandwidth to serve up the digital images to the Web from the IHDC server. The State Library also provides training and support for the service.

How does contributing to IHDC benefit my organization?

  • Increased awareness, knowledge of and access to your organization and your collections by researchers, students, instructors and the general public;
  • Enhanced comprehension and familiarity by IHDC's online users with Iowa's extensive and diverse heritage;
  • Improved appreciation of your organization's community value and presence by more people, including government officials and public and private funding sources.


What are my institutions responsibilities?

  • Selection of materials for the collection;
  • Digitization of the items following IHDC guidelines;
  • Creation of metadata following IHDC guidelines;
  • Uploading the digital file and metadata to the IHDC server;
  • Promotion of your collections;
  • Determination of copyrights for all images and answering queries from the public about use of your own materials;
  • Establishing policies for and providing copies of materials to users, if you choose to do so
  • Creating the collection description for use on the IHDC.


What does my organization receive in return from IHDC?

  • Participation in a state-wide initiative to increase the knowledge of Iowa culture and heritage at no cost to your institution;
  • Storage for and access to your low-resolution images and your metadata;
  • Training and technical assistance from the IHDC staff;
  • Ability to use the Omeka software to create digital collections;
  • Access to a scanner and workstation at the State Library of Iowa;
  • Benefit from advertising your collection and institution;
  • Increased visibility of your organization and its collection.


What if my organization decides not to continue to contribute to IHDC?

After you create your first collection, you are under no obligation to create more. Your first collection will remain a part of IHDC. This will allow other institutions access to the software.

If there is a strong reason to remove your collection, such as previously undetermined problems with copyright, the collection can be removed after consultation with IHDC staff.


How does my organization get started and contribute a collection to IHDC?

Click here for steps to participation in IHDC.


Are my projects too big or too small?

IHDC is prepared to accept both big and small projects. The IHDC staff will evaluate each project to determine if it meets IHDC's goals and collection development criteria, and if IHDC has the resources available to accept it.

If your collection is less than thirty items, you may want to consider outsourcing the project or partnering with another IHDC contributor, especially if you don’t have the staff trained in digitization already and you don’t plan to contribute any additional collections. If you have selected a large collection to digitize, the IHDC staff will evaluate your project's appropriateness for the Web site. We recommend that you begin with a format that is straightforward, like postcards or photographs for your first project.

How do we determine what to digitize?

Collections to the IHDC should relate to Iowa history and/or culture, should have a unifying theme and should meet IHDC's goals and collection development criteria. Your institution will need to either own the copyright to the items or have permission from the copyright owner. A useful tool for making selections is Moving Theory Into Practice - Digital Imaging Tutorial created by the Cornell University Library. You may also contact the IHDC staff for assistance.

Click here for more information about determining copyright.

Can newspapers be included in a collection?

Newspaper clippings on a specific theme may be used to create a collection and a small run of a historic or out-of-print newspaper may be considered. However, the entire run of your community's newspaper would not be appropriate.

What training is provided?

IHDC staff provides training for selecting and creating the collection.

What equipment and connectivity to the internet do I need to get started?


  • Desktop or laptop computer with Intel Pentium 4 processor;
  • Microsoft Windows XP or Microsoft Vista;
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0;
  • A minimum of 1GB RAM for Windows XP or 2GB for Windows Vista;
  • 5 Gigs of available hard disk space;
  • Backup drive to hold at least 120GB;
  • High speed internet connection: DSL, cable or T-1.


How long are our collections stored on IHDC?

The IHDC intends to maintain your collections indefinitely, unless copyright or ownership issues arise that require a collection or an image to be withdrawn. However, IHDC does not require exclusive storage rights to the images; contributing organization may also decide to mount them on their own Web site or with other third party organizations.

Where are the digital objects saved?

IHDC stores, retains and uses a lower-resolution format (e.g. JPEG or GIF) of the digital object. The server is owned by and maintained by the State Library. The contributing organization is encouraged to retain and store the original higher-quality file (e.g. TIFF) through the digitizing process. These can be stored by the organization on a portable sotrage medium, a computer hard drive or outsourced for storage through a third party. If a researcher requests a high-quality copy of an image the organization may provide a print or digital version from this higher-quality TIFF format. The organization sets its own policy and fees for such a service if appropriate.

Will this project preserve my delicate materials?

The goal for this service is to allow the digital images to be available to users. This service is not intended to be a repository for the organization’s digital preservation purposes. However, digital preservation is an essential part of digitization projects. Digitizing fragile items from your collection reduces the amount of times when the original will be handled. In order for digitization to be a form of preservation, organizations must take care to preserve the digital files. We encourage all contributing organizations to create high-resolution TIFF files (also called master files or archival files), however IHDC will only host the lower-resolution JPEG or GIF files on the its server. IHDC is committed to maintaining the server where the lower-resolution files are stored ensuring long term access to your items. It is important for the contributing organizations to know that maintaining the archival TIFFs over the long term requires some time, effort and money. Technological obsolescence is a real threat to digital files. Make sure that you plan for and budget for migration of these to ensure that the files do not end up in the digital graveyard. Good documentation about how the item was digitized will help organizations maintain their master files into the future.

Is outsourcing the project an option?

Digital conversion companies may be used to create the digital format of the original item. However, these vendors can only create some of the technical metadata associated with the newly digitized image. Staff from the contributing organization – those that are knowledgeable about the collection - need to create the descriptive metadata about the items. The State Library cannot create the digital image and/or metadata on behalf of an organization.


How much does it cost to implement a digital project?

There is no charge for the software or for storage of the images. If you intend to create digital images and metadata in-house, the costs are staff time (paid or volunteer) and equipment to do so. A very rough estimate of time per item (scanning and metadata creation) is a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes. If you intend to contract with a company to create the digital images, the project cost will vary depending on type and quantity of the collection. The outsourcing company will provide a custom quote for each project. Finally, it is important to set aside time to promote the organization’s IHDC initiative to its community of users.

For a look at the steps to create a project click here.

Is a project like this eligible for grant funding?

Possibly. It is the responsibility of the organization to search and apply for grant or foundation moneys. IHDC maintains a Web page with information about grants and also a list of sites about finding grants.

Technical Support

Who will provide the technical support?

Your institution's IT staff will provide the majority of technical support for your hardware and for scanning your materials. The IHDC staff will provide support for download, installation and use of the Omeka software and for uploading your collections to the IHDC Web site.

Who will do the scanning?

Creating the digital files is the responsibility of contributing organizations. You can create the digital images at your organization or you can outsource this work.

What is metadata?

The simplest definition of metadata is “data about data.” It is any information associated with a resource (the digitized item) that allows the resource to be discovered, manipulated, sorted or managed. A librarian would call creating metadata cataloging. The IHDC has recommended sets of metadata elements based on the Dublin Core Metadata Element set for a variety of formats.

Who creates the metadata?

The person(s) most knowledgeable about the collection – most likely a person in your organization creates the descriptive metadata. They will be trained by IHDC staff on how to create the metadata and what to include in each field of the Dublin Core metadata format. You may already have information about the original resource in some other location like a library online catalog or an archive automated system like the PastPerfect museum software. This information may be a starting place to build your metadata records for your collection. Whether you have information already in hand or you are describing items for the first time, Omeka (the IHDC software) will help you create your Dublin Core metadata records. If you have data in a format that can be exported into a tab-delimited file (such as from PastPerfect), you can import that file into Omeka. If you do not have a file, then you can create your records using Omeka's metadata editor. It provides templates and other tools that allow you to create consistent metadata quickly.

Can I create metadata in my facility and what equipment is needed?

Yes, metadata can be created right at your desk from your organization. You will log into the Omkea software where you can import, catalog, and upload your items to your IHDC collection. All you need is a PC with a fast Internet connection.

Can the metadata be exported?

Yes, you can export metadata as a tab-delimited file or as an XML file.

Rights Management

How do IHDC Web site users know who owns the material?

You provide all known information about copyright owners and other restrictions in the metadata associated with the digital items. This information assists users in determining the copyright status of an item. The IHDC Web site also provides general copyright information for users.

What are the copyright and/or ownership issues that we need to be aware of?

For complete information about copyright click here.


How do we promote our digital collections?

IHDC staff recommends promoting your digital collections once they are complete. Promoting your organization's collections will increase the usage of your collections and positive exposure to your organization. As part of your planning process create and implement a promotional campaign using a variety of promotional methods including flyers, your local paper, your email list, library and museum mail lists, information to local schools, etc.


Based on a Web page created by Hudson River Valley Heritage.


For More Information:

About IHDC

Digitization Resources

Funding Sources

Contact Us