2023 Feature Release Recap

In 2023 we added 476 Odyssey features. From backend UI updates to new curatorial tools for digital museums, every change stemmed from our mission to support your work to save and share history.  

As we close out the year, we’re excited to share a few of our favorites.

OCR for Handwritten Documents

OCR can quickly transcribe materials to improve search capabilities, but it’s often limited to text-only documents. No more!

Odyssey users can now apply OCR to handwritten documents — making your day more efficient and your collections more accessible.

Microsoft Integration

Microsoft Office fans can rejoice!

Odyssey now includes an integration that allows users to conduct bulk imports and updates using Excel online.

Multiple Exhibits Landing Page

You have so many stories to tell! We want Odyssey to help you do just that. 

Odyssey users can now create and share multiple exhibits at once on their digital museum. Check out how the Muhammad Ali Center is utilizing this feature here.

Digital Museum Customization

We saw a need for Odyssey users to further customize their digital museums. So we made it happen.

You can now select font size, modify menu order and add submenus to help your digital museum visitors have the best experience possible.

Restrict Item Type Fields

If you want to make your collections accessible, but don’t need to share all the details — we’ve got you covered.

With item type fields restriction, you can keep specifics, such as location and condition, to yourself while publishing the rest.

If you’d like to learn more about Odyssey’s complete suite of features, you can do that here.

If you have any questions or would like to see these new releases in action, drop us a line. We’d be happy to give you a quick demo.

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We’d love to share how Odyssey can manage and share your materials. Please fill out the form and a member of our team will reach out to schedule a demo.

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Misconceptions of Digital Preservation

Digital preservation provides the opportunity to prevent the loss of archival materials and open up the doors for discovery. While it’s an exciting time, there are some misunderstandings about what it means to digitally preserve an archive.

We’re sharing some top misconceptions we hear when talking about digital preservation. Let’s dive in and provide some clarity.

1. We can get an intern to scan things.

We often hear about organizations setting up interns or volunteers with a flatbed scanner to “digitize” their archival materials. While the intention is good, the effort functions more as a bandaid than a long term solution.

Digital preservation requires careful consideration and a team of experts. 

Before diving in, you need to first establish a strategy. You’ll need to audit your materials to determine how many items you have, the type and the condition. It’s also best practice to set up stakeholder interviews to assess audience needs, storytelling opportunities and frequently used terms.

With a strategy in place you can then begin digital preservation imaging, but be aware that the process requires training and experience. To ensure the files produced are “preservation quality” we recommend following the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI). You can find our quick guide here

Our preservation imaging team strives to exceed the FADGI guidelines. The HQ studio is equipped with all the tools necessary to capture high resolution images with precise lighting, levels, color and more. These are designed to withstand evolving technology and protect the intellectual value of the item should the original be lost. 

An intern with a scanner often results in low resolution files that could become obsolete in the future. JPG and PDF formats are already starting to be questioned. An intern also lacks the institutional knowledge and training to structure digital assets in a way that makes them accessible and therefore useful to the organization. 

While we understand the pressure to start digital preservation initiatives, taking time to do things properly will prevent redundant work, or worse — loss of institutional knowledge. 

To learn more, you can access our digital preservation imaging guide here.

2. If we’ve imaged them, we’re set.

Organizations that want to check a digital preservation box sometimes take a “scan it and forget it” approach. While this takes a step toward protecting the original archival materials should they be lost in a disaster, it falls short of preserving them.

Digital preservation requires thoughtful creation and implementation of a metadata strategy. Metadata is the “data about data.” It serves as a structured way to describe, manage and organize digital assets. This is the special sauce that makes them more accessible and understandable now and in the future.

Ever come across an old photo without any information written on the back? Digitizing materials without metadata is exactly that. Fun to look at, but difficult to extract any useful information.

With descriptions, names, dates, locations, themes, events, etc. tagged, you have the potential to not only preserve your organization’s history, but to also make new connections. You’ll be able to find items with relations that perhaps you didn’t know existed. There’s incredible potential for new storytelling opportunities. 

If you want to see us wax poetic about the magic of metadata, you can dive into those details here.

3. We can back up our files on a hard drive.

This one gives us shivers. We’ve heard tragic stories of archives “digitizing” materials, maintaining a database on a physical computer or hard drive, then losing both the physical and digital copies in a disaster.

Any digital preservation effort needs to include secure cloud storage. Preferably using a collections management software that supports proper organization, cataloging, tagging and sharing of your digital assets.

Odyssey Preservation Software was developed to protect your digital assets. We utilize AWS, so you get all the guarantees and security that Amazon provides. Our bank level encryption ensures your assets and data are safe and sound — stored in multiple data centers.

We also designed the software to maximize accessibility internally and externally. All of your metadata becomes active links, allowing you to conduct global searches for relevant content across all collections and item types. That same searchability extends to the public-facing digital museum that all Odyssey users have the ability to build.

You can see Odyssey in action on the Muhammad Ali Center’s digital museum here.

4. Digital Preservation is for museums and archives.

You may hear about the push for digital preservation within the museums and archives industry. However, the value of digital preservation extends beyond these officially recognized repositories.

Each and every organization has a story to tell. Preserving that story for future generations is critical. 

Digital preservation, when done properly, is the only way to ensure your archival materials stand the test of time. By committing to digital preservation, your team is investing in the stability and growth of your institutional knowledge. 

Sharing your history transparently and using it to consider our shared future has never been more powerful. Through digital preservation, you’ll gain access to the materials you need to share your value, experience and impact.

So while it’s incredibly important that museums and archives are making materials accessible and future-proof, it’s a process that’s valuable for anyone with history. (That’s everyone.) 

5. We’ll deal with digital preservation next year.

Wildfires burned the Hewlett-Packard archives destroying the records of the founders of Silicon Valley’s first technology company. Record breaking flooding swept through Kentucky devastating the archives at Appalshop, an arts and media center dedicated to documenting Appalachian culture.

Decades of history were lost. A fire at Universal Studios destroyed 500,00 records. Original recordings from Aretha Franklin, Nirvana and Snoop Dogg were lost.

The disaster in Lahaina this summer took out four museums. The fires burned countless artifacts, including an original native Hawaiian kingdom flag.

Outside of the growing number of disasters, there’s the threat of natural decay. Magnetic tape’s lifespan is only 30 years. Those DVDs we stored precious memories on can degrade in about 10–20 years. With heat and humidity rising, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to maintain proper archival conditions.

We say all of this not to induce panic. 

Digital preservation needs to be an organizational priority. As time passes, your risk of decay and disaster increases — your missed opportunities for connection pile up. Taking action prevents that.

What to Do

Now that you know what not to do, let’s talk about what to do.

Our parent company, HistoryIT, has the steps for building a digital archive outlined here. Take a look to better understand the process and needs to preserve your materials and share your stories.

It’s a big task to take on internally. It can be thousands of hours of work. We’re here to help. Digital preservation strategy, digitization, metadata and modern software — we’ve got you covered.  

Reach out, ask questions. Save history!

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5 Tips for Grant Writing

Grants provide the resources often necessary to fund new programs, community initiatives and digital preservation projects. However, the process of writing a successful grant proposal can be daunting, but also very exciting! To make the process a bit easier, we’ve put together five tips that will help you navigate the grant writing process effectively and increase your chances of securing funding to save your organization’s history.

Defining clear goals and objectives is critical to effective grant writing.

1. Define Clear Goals & Objectives

Before diving into the grant writing process, it is essential to clearly define your project’s goals and objectives. Identify the specific outcomes you aim to achieve, whether it’s preserving a specific collection, digitally preserving historical documents or conducting research on a particular historical topic. Clear goals will demonstrate your project’s focus and help grant reviewers understand the impact of your work.

Put these goals on paper (or in a Google doc)! We often think our goals are defined, but when we challenge ourselves to write them out, we gain clarity. Meet with your team or find a colleague to brainstorm and/or review the goals you’ve written. This will provide direction as you search for grants and begin the formal writing process. 

Researching funding opportunities thoroughly will help you find the right grant for your organization's needs.

2. Thoroughly Research Grant Opportunities

Invest time in researching and identifying grant opportunities that align with your project’s objectives. We’re seeing a growing number of foundations, government agencies and non-profit organizations offering grants in the digital preservation space.

Each grant has its own requirements and preferences. Carefully review the eligibility criteria, funding priorities and submission guidelines to ensure your proposal meets the expectations of the grantor.

If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, take some time to understand their mission and culture. Even if it’s a group you’ve heard about previously, check to see if any major changes have taken place. Tailoring your proposal to fit the specific goals and values of the granting organization will significantly increase your chances of success.

We’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you and compiled a list of available grants that can help save your history here!

Communicating your project's importance through a well crafted narrative will strengthen your grant proposal.

3. Develop a Compelling Narrative

Craft a narrative that clearly communicates the importance of your project, its potential impact and why it aligns with the grantor’s mission. Introduce the historical significance of your topic, highlight how it relates to broader themes or contemporary issues and discuss your work’s long term impact.

Use persuasive language to convey your passion, expertise and commitment to the field of history and digital preservation. Supporting your narrative with relevant data, case studies and/or community or industry testimonials will further strengthen your proposal.

Here’s a quick persuasive writing guide from Grammarly and another from the University of Minnesota. Even if you’re an expert wordsmith, a refresh can be helpful to get in the *write* headspace. 

Creating a detailed budget for your grant proposal will help establish your project's credibility.

4. Create a Detailed Budget

Develop a detailed and realistic budget that clearly outlines how the grant funds will be spent. Identify all the necessary expenses, including personnel, equipment, supplies, travel costs, third party vendors and any other relevant expenses. Be sure to align your budget with the specific guidelines provided by the grantor. Justify each expense, demonstrating how it contributes to the successful completion of your project. A well-constructed budget will enhance the credibility of your proposal and showcase your ability to manage funds effectively.

If you’d like to include specific figures for costs associated with digital preservation imaging, metadata work, collections management software and online curation, feel free to reach out. We are here to help you save history.

Collaborating with others is a great way to gain feedback to make your proposal as strong as possible.

5. Collaborate & Seek Feedback

Grant writing can be an iterative process. Seek input from colleagues, mentors or experts in your field. Be sure to remain open to feedback and thoroughly consider opinions. New perspectives and insights can help you refine and strengthen your proposal and address any potential weaknesses.

Additionally, consider partnering with other organizations that share similar interests and goals. Collaboration can not only enhance the impact of your project, but also show your ability to work well with others which can increase your chances of being awarded funding.

Facebook groups or listservs can be great resources to find organizations to collaborate with or individuals willing to grab a coffee and brainstorm. By all means, build your grant writing network!

Next Steps

Writing a successful grant proposal requires careful planning, meticulous research and effective communication. No small task! Remember, grant writing is a skill that improves with practice. Be persistent, learn from each experience and keep refining your approach. Best of luck in securing the funding needed to make history accessible!

We have that list of digital preservation grant opportunities for you here.

As always, we’re available to provide more information about how we can support your project and any details needed for your budget proposal. Drop us a line anytime.

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