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X-Ray Digitization

Exploring a shared digitization service model for museums and other repositories of x-ray films

On May 31, 2008, representatives from fourteen major museums in the United States and the United Kingdom, convened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, under the auspices of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to consider methodologies for the digitization of x-radiograph archives and the feasibility of establishing a centralized digitization service.  Henry Lie (Straus Center, Harvard University Art Museums) and Ann Russell (Northeast Document Conservation Center) co-moderated the meeting.

Participating institutions were asked to respond in advance to a brief survey (prepared by Henry Lie) regarding the scope of existing repositories, current digitization and file storage practices, willingness of institutions to collaborate on shared services for digitization and/or for the distribution of images.

Items on the agenda included:

  • Demonstration and evaluation of digital images made from x-radiographs
  • Procedures for large scale x-ray digitizing projects
  • Physical limitations of digitizing archival films
  • Metadata required to capture the full range of associated information
  • Opportunities for sharing data
  • NEDCC as a possible centralized facility for the digitizing of x-radiographs
  • ARTstor and other options for the eventual sharing and management of scanned x-radiograph collections


Following the meeting participating institutions provided sets of representative films (varying in density, contrast, level of fine detail) for test scanning on a variety of devices.

Results of the scanning tests will be circulated for discussion with a view toward identifying the optimal device.

Metadata requirements will be discussed at a follow-up meeting.


Related X-Ray Resources

Understanding Scanners: A presentation by Robert Simcoe, Harvard College Observatory
National Gallery of Art Guidelines for X-Radiograph Film Preservation, by Constance McCabe, Elizabeth Walmsley, and Sarah S. Wagner

Cold Storage Options: Costs and Implementation Isssues, by Sarah S. Wagner 

Reprinted here with the permission of the author and the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works/Photographic Materials Group ( Updated version posted July 21, 2008 corrects Table 3 (est. KWH/y).



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