Metamorfoze is the Netherlands’ national program for the preservation of paper heritage. The program is an initiative of the Ministry of OCW (Education, Culture and Sciences) and started in 1997 as a venture between the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands) and the Nationaal Archief (National Archives). The program is coordinated by Bureau Metamorfoze, the National Preservation Office that is situated at the National Library and counsels heritage institutions in formulating proposals for projects and carrying them out. The Bureau is also responsible for releasing information related to the program. As part of its mandate, the Bureau created guidelines for digitizing books and paper documents, which are now internationally recognized as one of the main standards. Metamorfoze is an important source of information within the international community when it comes to the mass preservation of a country’s paper heritage.

The digital images produced for Metamorfoze must adhere to specified quality standards and retain a verifiable relation to the original in such a way that they can serve as a replacement of the original object, as the originals are withdrawn from use after preservation. However, there will be different requirements for different types of material.

The Metamorfoze Preservation Imaging Guidelines are available online as a PDF document. Moreover, the Bureau Metamorfoze has also drawn up a Checklist for digitization of valuable manuscripts.

Metamorfoze describes three tiers of quality:

Low Quality

Extra Light

Mid Quality


Preservation Grade Quality

(sometimes referred to as “strict” bezeichnet)

However, the purpose of these levels is not to give a fundamentally negative judgment on digitization, which is carried out with a quality below the preservation grade quality.

There are applications in which it is completely sufficient to reach a lower level. This applies in particular to projects where the legibility of the pure text material is more important than the accuracy of the tone and color values. If the user can clearly read the result, then the quality achieved is more than sufficient for the task.

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