Digitization Guidelines

Please note: This section only applies to paper administrative records digitized (also referred to as scanned or imaged) by Dalhousie staff and faculty members. It does not apply to records created electronically.


When changing the format of a record it is important to ensure that the “new” record is a true representation of the original. The following guidelines outline standards and parameters for establishing a digitization process to ensure that any record captured is secure, accessible and true to the original.

First, determine whether digitization is necessary from an operational standpoint. Consider these questions:

1.     Do the records fall under the Records Management Policy?  

  • Refer to DalCLASS for retentions and dispositions of administrative records. This will assist in determining digitization considerations.

2.     How long do the records need to be retained?

  • Example, if less than three years, consider the need and access requirements and whether these justify the time and cost of digitization.

3.     How often must the records be accessed?

  • Example, if twice a week or by numerous people, digitization may be a good option.

Meeting National Standards

Ensuring that a new record format is a true image of the original and thus an unaltered record requires that “the integrity of the records system in which the record was made or received, or stored, and/or the reliability of the recordkeeping processes, can be proven” (National Standards of Canada Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence, CAN/CGSB-72.34-2017 Section 5.2.1).

The National Standards of Canada Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence outlines the management and preservation of electronic records information with respect to the digitization of paper records. These standards align with the Canada Evidence Act and the Nova Scotia Evidence Act. Adherence to CAN/CGSB-72.34-2017 is highly recommended when developing digitization processes at Dalhousie.  

Dalhousie Records Management Office is available to assist with the creation and review of current digitization processes. For more information, please contact us at DalRM@dal.ca.

Digitization procedures should include descriptions of the technology used, metadata profiles, capture of the image, quality assurance measures, access and security, audit process, application of records management procedures, and overall management of records

Outlining Technology

Outline the technology used*, including supports and applications, such as:

  • Capture software
  • Name, version and whether it is a software supported by Information Technology Services (ITS)
  • Scanner model
  • Name, model number, etc.
  • Repositories
  • Repositories used during the process from capture to long-term storage
  • Duration of time the record will be retained in each repository
  • Backup system and recovery
  • Outline the technological aspects of backup and system recovery
  • Once records are captured, do other copies remain in other locations?
  • What is the disposition process for copies?
  • How long will they be retained and why?

*It is recommended that a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) be complete when acquiring a new content management system or when using additional features in a current content management system that the original PIA be reviewed. Contact the Privacy Office for more details.

Metadata profile

According to CAN/CGSB-72.34-2017, “a complete set of metadata including all evidentially relevant information on the identity of each record, the business rules associated with its capture, its logical structure, and complete entity and attribute definitions shall be captured or created and maintained in the records system for as long as the record exists, sometimes longer. An organizational metadata profile shall be established for digitized records.” These will be set at the time of capture and transferred when files are migrated and/or uploaded into a Dalhousie approved repository.

The following metadata surrounding a record’s identity, description, administration and recordkeeping must be captured for auditing and reporting purposes (as outlined in CAN/CGSB-72.34-2017 Annex B).

Identity metadata

(To be retained as long as the record exists)

  • Time metadata—attributes specifying the date a record is made or received or stored with an aggregation of records
  • Persons metadata—attributes specifying the names of the record’s author(s), addressee(s) and other recipients, and of the handling office, if applicable
  • Form metadata—attributes specifying the documentary form of the record (e.g., letter, memorandum) and the intellectual form of the record (e.g., contract, sentence, patent, application)
  • Technical metadata—attributes specifying the format and other technological characteristics of the record
  • Naming metadata—attributes stating the name of the record, its subject matter, or the action it embodies
  • Relationship metadata—attributes specifying the relationships of the record to other records (e.g., registry number, classification code, identification number)
  • Authentication metadata—attributes specifying the method of record authentication if applicable (e.g., digital seal, digital signature, encryption)

Description metadata

Attributes used to find and interpret the record. This includes any metadata in addition to the above identity metadata that describes the record, including:

  • Additional Authors (if more than one)
  • Keywords/search terms (such as project number or name)
  • modifiers/editors
  • version
  • DalCLASS code
  • DalCLASS Retention Trigger/Record Close Date

Administrative metadata

Attributes used to manage the record, which may include:

  • Technical metadata—attributes providing information about the technical context of the record, migration to a new system, and methods of disposition
  • Rights metadata—attributes describing rights and obligations adhering to the record, including ownership, copyright and other intellectual property rights, usage and security restrictions
  • Preservation metadata—attributes describing activities carried out to preserve the record over time and across technological change, such as conversion and reproduction for redundancy
  • Structural metadata—attributes documenting the structural relationships between or within digital records (e.g., the linkage between pages in a website)
  • Use metadata—attributes about or from the users of the resource (e.g., social tags, access logs, user search logs)

Recordkeeping metadata

This metadata is not part of the record’s identity, but will be generated in the course of record maintenance and use. It reveals the actions in which the record has participated during the normal course of business. It can be superseded in the normal course of business, but only if such an action is part of the regular way the record is managed.

Recordkeeping metadata surrounding the record’s disposition (permanent deletion or transfer) will be retained permanently as part of Records Management policy and program procedures along with indemnity metadata.


  • Type of record or DalCLASS classification (also under description metadata)
  • Close date/trigger (also under description metadata)
  • User ID of individual who completed capture
  • Digital seal or signature
  • Authorization date
  • Creation/True Document date (date on paper document, not date captured)
  • Capture date
  • Migration date
  • Modifications or conversations: editor, types, dates and times
  • Version control
  • Format captured

Image capture

It is important to ensure that the “new” record is a true representation of the original. Considerations include:

  • Minimum 300 DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch) or other measurement suitable for the record being digitized
  • More complex paper images require higher DPI/PPI to ensure image clarity
  • Colour vs black-and-white—if the original document is in colour and is being captured in black-and-white, provide the rationale for doing so
  • Format of record capture (e.g., docx, PDF, PDFA, TIFF, Jpeg, etc.) and rationale
  • Preservation—if the record is to retained permanently the quality and format of the image should adhere to CAN/CGSB-72.34-2017 Annex C (Preservation Formats)

Consider the management of the source records and how they need to be managed after quality assurance checks are complete.

Quality assurance measures

The frequency and process for the assessment and monitoring of image quality should be outlined in procedures, including processes for amending errors.

  • How is the quality checked? (e.g., clarity of content, all pages captured and in correct order);
  • At what stage will the digitized image be considered the authentic record of the original? This is known as “date of declaration,” the instance when the digitized record is declared the source of truth or master record for the University and the paper document is deemed a transitory record.

Note: “Quality assurance shall be conducted and certified by the organization, and source records shall not be subject to authorized destruction until all quality assurance procedures are completed, and all corrections and retakes are documented, approved, and submitted.” (CAN/CGSB-72.34-2017 Section

Accessibility & Security protection

Outlines how records remain secure from unauthorized access and retain authenticity.

  • Access Control—who will have access to the records, why, and access review
  • Outlines user rights, and the management and application of procedures for access permissions
  • How holds will be applied to records


Audit processes and applications should be revised to ensure that they meet industry standards.

  • Does the application software and storage repository have auditing capabilities?
  • Does it store the audit reports or will storage be managed externally?

Application of records management procedures

These need to be documented for both paper and digital records.

  • Identify the process by which Record Holds will be applied. For more information see the Records Management Office Resources website for Record Hold types and procedures;
  • Disposition of paper records requires a process whereby the original paper records  are  declared “transitory.” This process articulates how paper documents will be managed after the date of declaration (including how long and why); and how will they be disposed;
  • Disposition of digital records requires a process outlining how the retention schedules and dispositions (outlined in DalCLASS) will be applied;
  • Both short-term and long-term storage and possible records preservation methods need to be declared.

Overall management of records

By ensuring that processes are in place to declare digitized documents as true representations of the paper records, and that proper access and controls are in place to maintain the integrity of the records, we can be confident that the paper records may be deemed transitory and are shredded securely within appropriate timeframes.

Dalhousie Records Management Program has outlined procedures to follow in the disposition of electronic and paper records. Adhering to Dalhousie Records Management Policy and National Standards of Canada, and completing Dalhousie Records Management Programs process documentation demonstrates the university’s due diligence and defensible dispositioning with its administrative records.


Record retentions and dispositions are based on the record type and are the same regardless of what format the record is in (electronic or paper). However, when applying retentions and dispositions to records stored in different storage repositories the process is different. Please contact the Records Management Office at DalRM@dal.ca or ITS Support for further assistance.