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With the finalization of the 2023 FADGI guidelines, now is a good time to review, revisit and think about how FADGI fits into the
broader Imaging landscape. 

What is FADGI?

FADGI, the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative, is a technical manual describing the way in which we should aim to digitize documents in an archival setting. By integrating some level of awareness or compliance with FADGI into our digital projects, we align ourselves with the larger body of work being produced by the Heritage community. FADGI compliance is often viewed as 4 star or nothing; however, there are several levels of quality that we can fit into, giving a program a bit of leeway. Knowing where a program fits in the FADGI star scale can be just as important as aligning with 4 star quality levels. The FADGI document goes well beyond describing the pass/fail objectives for image quality, and gives recommendations on space design, large and small scale workflow design, metadata and file naming. It is an essential read for a new program looking for guidance, or an existing program looking to stay current.


What’s different?

FADGI 2023 contains a range of changes, updates and revisions compared to the previous version, dating back to 2016. The new guidelines take on a more narrative approach, expanding on the purpose and requirements of the document, and furthering what was already a robust technical document. Additionally, the new document contains the addition of a Code of Ethics for the working group responsible for creating FADGI, the addition of Professional Staff to the conformance parameters, additional metrics and evaluation methods and updates to a number of sections. A full list of the major revisions can be found in section 1.2 of the guidelines themselves, but here is a quick summary of the highlights.

FADGI 2016 FADGI 2023
Resolution Requirements All object types have a PPI target, plus or minus a given percentage. 

ie. 400 ppi +/- 1%

All object types have a nominal PPI with a lower bound for compliance.

ie.  ≥ 396 ppi (400 ppi -1%)

Evaluation Criteria Values 8 bit RGB  L*a*b*
Metadata 2016 standards. Updated to reflect current standards. Additional information and links included for the Digital Curation Center.
“Post-Processing” 2016 standards.  Updated to reflect current technology and best practices. Includes more information on image stitching, Color management section has been moved to Conformance Evaluation. 
Modern Textual Records Media Type Newly added category informed by specifications and data from NARA (National Archives and Records Administration).
Code of Ethics Includes a code of ethics to be followed by the Still Image Working Group (the body who creates the guidelines).
Professional Staff Guidelines and requirements Professional staff and training have been added as a parameter for FADGI compliance. 

Arguably most relevant for those of us currently working working with the guidelines is the shift to L*a*b* values for evaluation, and the removal of the upper resolution guideline on all media types. These changes allow for a more accurate and consistent evaluation of color and tone parameters, and gives us the ability to over resolve different media types, if that is more convenient for our workflow.


Golden Thread NXT

Evaluation through software will be just as important with the revision of the guidelines. Golden Thread NXT reflects these changes, and has been developed to support the 2023 guidelines along with some general user experience improvements. The legacy version of Golden Thread is no longer compliant for validation against the new standard. Users new to the NXT version of Golden Thread will be greeted by an easier to use interface, backed by the same deep analytical tools they have come to expect.

Golden Thread NXT’s new landing page lists projects by material type, rather than color space and PPI.


Results are reported in a percent star level, allowing easy understanding of strengths and weaknesses.


NXT reads both RGB digital count values, as well as the new Colorimetric L*a*b* values, allowing existing programs to understand what . This shift to L*a*b* allows us to review color independent of color space, ensuring consistent quality metrics across any number of institutions. NXT also organizes the project types by media type, so we can select contextually what guideline we are evaluating against. These different project types take into consideration any of the different color, tone, or resolution metrics that can differ across the various media types, rather than comparing against generic values.


A DT NGT2 analyzed in Legacy Golden Thread, displaying tonescale in RGB digital counts


A DT NGT2 analyzed in Golden Thread NXT, displaying tonescale in L*a*b*


Digital Transitions is a dealer for Golden Thread, and in addition to providing your program with the software and appropriate targets, we can provide training on an ongoing basis for your institution. 


FADGI 2023 is an exciting shift for the field that works to align itself with the international community, and be a holistic reference point for up and coming programs. Now more than ever, the FADGI document can be used to reference every aspect of a digitization project. Perfect for seasoned professionals looking to keep current, as well as emerging professionals just starting at their first digitization position.

Read the full guideline HERE

To learn more about evaluating your images using Golden Thread NXT, check out the DT 301 Characterization and Evaluation course HERE!

All of DT’s solutions meet or exceed all National and International standards, including ISO19264, FADGI and Metamorfoze.

“Do it once; do it right” is an incredibly important tenet in heritage imaging. Digitizing at inferior image quality inevitably leads to re-imaging which is monetarily wasteful and causes deterioration of fragile materials. All of our hardware and services provide preservation-grade image quality and verify that performance using international standards. This provides us and our clients an objective assurance that our quality is preservation-grade. We believe in standards-based heritage imaging so deeply that we are a member of the ISO committee TC42 which guides their development and adoption.

Ben Cort
Cultural Heritage Technical Support Specialist
Ben Cort has been working in professional imaging and cultural heritage for the past 12 years. He began his career as a digital tech and lighting assistant, while working at the Portland Art Museum to develop an in-house imaging program. His tenure at PAM saw the imaging program grow from a volunteer position to a core function of the museum, and centerpiece of the Pacific Northwest cultural heritage landscape. He is active in the community as well, serving as the MCN Digital Imaging Special Interest Group Chair from 2018 to 2021, and delivering talks on heritage imaging nationwide.


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