Electronic Records - Scanning/Digitizing

Our office is collaborating on a scan project. A question was raised regarding textual document containing color print. Is authenticity compromised if document were to be scanned in black and white? What is the National Archive requirement/standard for capturing colored text with in a document? Can anyone offer some guidance or reference materials/sites?


Hi Tamara!

Here is an excerpt from the National Archives’ Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Archival Materials:

Scanning Text
Guidelines have been established in the digital library community that address the most basic requirements for preservation digitization of text-based materials, this level of reproduction is defined as a “faithful rendering of the underlying source document” as long as the images meet certain criteria. These criteria include completeness, image quality (tonality and color), and the ability to reproduce pages in their correct (original) sequence. As a faithful rendering, a digital master will also support production of a printed page facsimile that is a legible facsimile when produced in the same size as the original (that is 1:1).*

You can view the full document at this link:

Hope this helps!

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From what I’ve seen, NARA’s advice is almost always going to be to try to capture a record in as close to its original format as possible.

In terms of what is “authentic” from a legal or regulatory standpoint, I don’t believe it’s a hard and fast rule, I think the answer has more to do with information loss/preservation.

Does converting from color to grayscale mean that there is substantive information lost? If yes, that would effect the authenticity of the record. If not, that would not seriously diminish the authenticity of the record.

For example, if there was a transcript that used color to denote who is speaking, or the original source of some quotations, then losing that color would have serious implications for the authenticity of the record.

If instead you have a quirky coworker who uses Green Comic Sans for every memo, losing the exact hue of green he/she used would not be as serious a loss.

So as with most things in RM, my answer would be “It depends.”

Thanks for the interesting question @ARO721!


Thank you for the quick response. I thought was very similar to yours. Thank you for the additional reference provided.

Most appreciative,

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