National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program

Digital Scanning

The guidelines and best practices for digital scanning presented here have been provided by Steve D. Bowman at the Utah Geological Survey, and the 2016 NGGDPP Review Panel.


Effective data preservation of materials by digital scanning begins with an appropriate workflow, equipment, and specifications.  Since it is unlikely that materials will be rescanned in the future, due to their fragile and/or deteriorating nature, limited funds and/or time, and/or access limitations, it is critical to produce high-quality digital scans that closely resemble the original materials.  Adopting an appropriate workflow will reduce the cost, the time involved, and the excessive handling of materials.  This draft digital scanning guideline and best practices document was developed to assist participants involved in the U.S. Geological Survey National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program and is anticipated to be updated as time and resources permit and new information becomes available.  Common digital scanning situations are described; however, unique materials to be archived and preserved will likely require specialized methods that may not be described in this document.  

Before a digital scanning project begins, it is often helpful to sort the materials of interest in groups that will likely have a similar scanning workflow.  This will reduce errors and the overall amount of time needed to complete a project, and allow each group to be processed in an assembly line procedure.  Documents, reports, and similar items; large maps; aerial photography; and still photography materials all have somewhat different scanning workflows, equipment, and specifications.

How can you contribute?

If you have any success stories, suggestions, or contributions you would like to share, please send an email to the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program at  We will work with you to highlight your best practices and share them online.