Something New for Something Old: Innovative Approaches to Managing Archives and Special Collections

December 4-5, 2008 at the Union League of Philadelphia



Overview and Updates

Schedule and Speakers


Information for Attendees


Joshua Ranger
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

Biographical Statement

Joshua Ranger has served as University Archivist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh since 1998. For the past eight years, he has been involved with the creation and ongoing development of the UW System's cooperative digital program known as the UWDC. Currently he serves as the chair of the Digital Initiatives Coordinating Committee of the Council of UW Libraries, overseeing policy and strategic goals of the digital library and institutional repository of the 26 campus system. Recently Ranger has worked with the UWDC to experiment with ways to lower the cost of digitizing traditional paper-based archival collections. He is a graduate of the UW Madison School of Library and Information Studies.

member of Digitization panel

Project Description

In 2006-2007, the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections (UWDC) conducted an experiment to reduce costs in the digitization of manuscript materials. Bringing the concept of "More Product, Less Process" into the digital realm, the UWDC eliminated item level metadata, counting on the finding aid to provide the necessary context at the folder level. The project also utilized high speed scanners of photocopies rather than digitizing originals. With these adjusted standards, the experiment realized an 80% reduction in costs in bringing the materials from box to screen. Usability testing among undergraduate and graduate students, however, demonstrated there were significant trade-offs for this frugal approach. The continued experimentation requires us to question what activity is of greater value to our researchers: meeting their increasing demand for research material online or making use of the enormous added values digital activities can provide. If a fully realized mass digitization program of UW System archival collections is to begin, the UWDC's challenge is to adjust its model for a balance of cost savings and usability; finding a middle ground in patron expectations for both quantity and quality.


View the Ada James Papers of the UWDC here:



Last updated October 29, 2008. Questions may be directed to Laura Blanchard,