Although the efficacy of digital media as a replacement for traditional silver-based media is still being debated and the United States Department of the Interior (HABS) standards for high-level documentation still specify silver-based materials, the field is in a state of transition. The great majority of site documentation is currently captured digitally, and all retrievable images from the Library of Congress are currently delivered digitally. Digital cameras have evolved to the point where image quality can meet even the highest HABS standards at a cost that is comparable to traditional materials. For professional photographic practitioners, it is time to propose digital standards for HABS-level work that will ensure high image quality, accuracy, and integrity of digital information and retrievability of archival images over the long term. At the same time, it makes sense to propose less rigorous standards for field notes, National Register nominations, area surveys, and the like, to guide preservation professionals who use photography in their work. This paper examines the elements of lens, camera, recording material, image adjustment, image storage, and retrieval, comparing the specifications of traditional film practice with digital counterparts currently available. It then proposes new standards to allow for further advances in digital technology that are both mindful of international practice and cost effective.


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pp. 216-234
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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