Equipment and software

There is a wide range of equipment and software available for use in collection digitisation. Do your research and find the ones that will work best for you.


A scanner is used to capture an item in digital format. It is generally used for scanning flat documents, photographs, glass plate negatives, transparencies, maps, plans, etc. It is worth considering purchasing an A3-size scanner to enable scanning a wider range of items. If there are large scale objects that require scanning see if there is another local organisation that can assist with this. There may be a large scale scanner at a local library, or architect’s office, or at a local university archive.

In the Digitisation Toolkit of the State Library of Queensland, the following is recommended as the minimum capability of a scanner. Anything that exceeds these minimum standards would be suitable. Take this information to the office supply store when you are considering your scanner options.

  • Size: A4
  • Resolution: 700ppi for flat objects, and 2700ppi for slides
  • Interface: USB2

More information
Scanning and handling tips – State Records NSW
Digitisation: A simple guide for museums – UK Collection Trust


A camera is used for photographing objects in the collection. This is everything that can be photographed from a chair, to a framed artwork to a tractor.

There are online videos and websites that provide useful information on how to photograph objects and artworks, especially those held within frames and with glass that may be proving difficult to photograph.

In the Digitisation Toolkit of the State Library of Queensland, the following is recommended as the minimum capability of a camera. Anything that exceeds these minimum standards would be suitable.

  • Type: DSLR
  • Resolution: 24 mega pixels
  • Sensor: DX
  • Lens: 50mm.

When making a purchase, talk to the sales staff about the capabilities of the camera you are looking at, to ensure it will achieve your aims.

Other photography equipment:

  • tripod – a tripod is essential for keeping the camera very still when taking photographs of objects and will provide better quality photographs.
  • lighting – to provide adequate lighting for photography it is advisable to have two lights set 45 degrees either side of the object to provide an even level of light.  These needn’t be expensive and do not need to be professional photographic lights.  Lights can be purchased from places such as hardware stores or you can use two desk lamps. It is best if they are on stands that can be moved around.  Use white or daylight globes.  There is more information about photographing objects in this video from Museums Australia Victoria.
  • backdrop – a backdrop can be a large white sheet or large white piece of cardboard. A length of white fabric attached to a cardboard roll, such as those used when purchasing fabric, is very handy as it can be rolled up and put away when not in use.

Alternatively, purchase a photographic set up that comes with lighting to photograph the small to medium sized objects in your collection. An internet search of ‘shooting tables photography’ or ‘tent cubes photography’ will lead you to suppliers of this kind of equipment. Set ups can be purchased for under $300.

Computer hardware

You will need a computer to view and store the digital assets that are created. It will also be required for cataloguing the collection.

Files of digitised material can take up a lot of space in your computer’s hard drive, so consider purchasing an external hard drive. These small devices hold a lot of information that can only be viewed when connected to a computer. They are available from office supply stores.

Audio visual equipment

Audio and audio/visual digitisation requires a range of specialist equipment in order to transfer old taped recordings into digital format. Because of this, it is a task best done by professionals. See the section about ‘audio or audio/visual items’ in Methods of digitisation for more information.

Back-up systems

External hard drives can be used as a back-up for the digital data creating through the collections digitisation process. Data may also be stored in cloud-based storage. Whichever method is chosen, be sure to back up regularly and often.

Collections management systems

Most organisations are using a collections management system to manage their collections. The digitised images are attached to the item record in the collections management system for easy identification. For more information about using a collections management system see Museums and Galleries NSW’s fact sheets on Collection Management Systems and Computer Cataloguing Databases.