Equipment Review: Digitization Solution for Lantern Slides and Glass Plate Negatives

During my site visit to the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen (GSMT), in preparation for on site work there, the Archivist presented some lantern slides and glass plate negatives that they were keen to have digitized. Our scanner, the Epson V600, has the capability to scan transparencies but is limited in scope in terms of size of transparencies it can deal with and I knew looking at the material, they were too large for our scanner.

Epson V600 transparency capabilities:
Transparency size:
2.7”x9.5”

Supported film size:
35mm mounted slides
35mm film strips
Medium format strips 6x22cm

GSMT lantern slide size: 8.5x10cm
GSMT glass plate negative size: 35x28cm

Lantern slides and glass plate negatives abound in archives everywhere. They’re easy to digitize (if they’re in robust condition); you just need the right equipment in order to do so. Knowing our scanner could not accommodate them and knowing that I wanted to digitize them during my time on site at GSMT, I spent some time researching additional equipment to add to our kit.

I quickly settled on the solution of camera, light box and Photoshop . We technically didn’t need Photoshop for the lantern slides (aside from some cropping) but we did need Photoshop for the glass plate negatives as it enabled us to turn the negative into a positive.

We already had the camera, tripod and Photoshop; we just needed to add a light box to our kit. However, in this instance we also purchased a new camera lens. We already had a lens that came with our Canon Rebel T5; an 18-35mm lens. We’ve had some issues with lens curvature that’s purely due to the construction of the lens; the curve has been noticeable in some items I’ve digitized and so I’ve been thinking for some time about adding another lens to our kit. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so and I spent time researching different types of lenses, settling on the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens for the job. This lens has a flat field of focus and so does not reproduce the curvature our original lens does. This will not only help with types of material such as transparencies but with other formats that are unsuitable for scanning. However, it does have a limitation in terms of the size of item we can photograph because it is a short macro lens, but overall, it’s addition to our kit really helps with our copy-stand digitization solution.    

Our new Canon Macro Lens

Our new Canon EF-S 60mm Macro Lens

We’ve used B&H a lot during the compilation of our mobile digitization kits and they’ve also given us good advice on a few occasions when we’ve had questions, so it was my first port of call in search of a light box. As with everything in our kits, I needed it to be portable – as lightweight as possible and small enough to fit in my backpack. This need definitely scaled down my available options but I was able to find a product that suited our needs.

Our light box and camera solution for digitizing lantern slides.

Our light box and camera solution for digitizing lantern slides.

I opted for the Porta Trace 10”x12” – it was large enough to accommodate the lantern slides that needed digitizing but small enough to be able to fit in my backpack for easy transportation. The lightsource is LED which gives a more even distribution of light and does not heat up as quickly as other light sources. Purchasing this particular light box discounted our ability to digitize the glass plate negatives as they were too large but luckily, GSMT had a light box that was big enough to accommodate them, enabling their digitization as well – a bonus!

The light box and macro lens worked extremely well for the lantern slides and all 78 were digitized successfully. We are glad of the opportunity we had to work with GSMT and are happy that not only were we able to expand our kit enabling us to accommodate the digitization of different formats but also that we were able to digitize GSMT’s material successfully and allow access of them to wider audiences.

One of the lantern slides digitized with our light box and camera.

One of the lantern slides digitized with our light box and camera.

Equipment Review: Epson V800 Flatbed Scanner

At Queens Library we purchased the Epson V800 scanner, as our department already had access to a V600 model and we wanted to experiment with another scanner model. The V800 also has some extended capability, including a significantly larger scan bed area for transparencies and the ability to scan 4×5 negatives. Many of the thoughts that Caroline summarized in her review of the V600 scanner hold true for the V800 model (it’s a great piece of equipment!). But there are some key differences between the models that should considered, especially given the substantial difference in price between the two models.

Sarah uses the V800 scanner at the Forest Hills Library.

Sarah uses the V800 scanner at the Forest Hills Library.

Size & Weight
The Epson V800 weighs 14.6 pounds, about 5 pounds heavier than the V600 model. It’s also slightly larger physically. While unfortunately this additional size and weight doesn’t mean a larger scan bed, it does mean that you need a larger wheeled case for transportation. We purchased the Pelican Storm Trak iM2975 for the V800. The case is easy to wheel around, but it’s size makes it unwieldy and it requires two people to lift in and out of a car.

Silverfast
The V800 model comes with Silverfast included, and as Caroline has noted, we love using this software.

Negative Capabilities
We haven’t had any donors bringing in negatives to our events, so we haven’t had the chance to test the extended capabilities of this scanner. We do plan to use this equipment to assist with digitizing our in-house archival materials in the future.

Speed
The V800 is faster than the V600 model. This can be an asset at a community event, where we are trying to get through material quickly and efficiently.

Overall the V800 consistently produces excellent quality master images, and is a reliable and sturdy piece of equipment. In our experience, the extended transparency and negative capabilities have not been worth the additional $500, but in another situation these attributes  could prove useful! You can see a full comparison of the specifications of the V600 and V800 scanners here.

Equipment Review: Epson V600 Flatbed Scanner

Throughout the project, we’re keen to share our thoughts on the items that make up our mobile digitization kits. So far, we’ve reviewed our laptop and our mobile copy-stand but not yet our flatbed scanner; although, we did post near the beginning of the project about a problem we had with one of the Epson V600’s.

As is noted in our kit lists – two of the scanners we have are the Epson V600 model and the other is the Epson V800 model. We purchased the V800 as Queens Library already had a V600 and so wanted to experiment with a different model.

In a nutshell, I have been extremely pleased with the V600. It’s produced consistent, high quality preservation TIFF files and it’s extremely robust given that I’ve wheeled it all over New York City with no problem at all. Below is an overview of what the standouts are for me of this scanner.

Lightweight, which = portable
The V600 is 9 pounds. Due to the nature of our project, I’m forever lifting it in and out of its transportation case and I’ve had no trouble with this at all. It’s weight and dimensions (11″ x 19″ x 4.6″ W x D x H) mean it’s easy to move around.

 

The V600 onsite at The Grolier Club

The V600 onsite at The Grolier Club

Silverfast is worth the added $
The Silverfast license is an added cost with the V600 (an extra $49 but it’s included with the V800). As well as better color management and more granular setting options than the built-in Epson software, Silverfast also has a great pre-scan and selection functions. We have written a guide on the ‘pre-scan’ function in Silverfast which demonstrates the just how useful it can be, as it allows you to set scan parameters before the actual scan (useful for when scanning a light colored document as Epson Scan can’t seem to find the border of the document and often cuts the margin out). The pre-scan parameters also come in handy if you’re digitizing a small item; you can set the parameters directly around the item, reducing scan time, which has been very useful on several occasions. You can also rotate the image in pre-scan eliminates any skew problems in your scans right from the beginning, a bonus for not having to undertake that work during post-processing in Photoshop, for example.

Negative scanning function is great
I used this function when I was onsite at White Plains Public Library. They had some great film negatives from the refurbishment of the city’s train station and some great glass plate negatives of people using the library in the 1950s (if you’re interested you can check them out here). The scanner comes with trays to hold negatives in and it was extremely easy to switch between the reflective and transparency modes on the scanner, which I did in Silverfast. The negative scanning features are a big plus for this scanner; we were considering purchasing a separate slide/film scanner, which we ultimately didn’t need to do because of the V600’s added functionality in this area. 

One of the negatives I scanned with the V600 from the White Plains local history collection

One of the negatives I scanned with the V600 from the White Plains local history collection

I’d recommend the V600 to anyone looking to start a digitization project in the cultural heritage field. It’s not prohibitively expensive ($200), it consistently produces excellent quality master images and has the added benefit of negative scanning. The only thing I can think of that may is a mark against it, is the scanning bed size (max 8.5”x11.7”) but given our need for portability, this isn’t too much of an issue for us. We have written about the difficulty of finding equipment that bridges the gap between having the functionality to output archival quality preservation files (so many lightweight and ‘fast’ scanners on the market do not produce TIFFs) and being lightweight enough to be portable and the V600 is definitely the perfect scanner for us for our needs.

As we bought both the V600 and V800, I thought it might be useful to see the specifications of the two models. This isn’t a comparative table as these two models are quite different in their offerings – for different audiences (I won’t go into further detail about it as I’ve not used it extensively throughout the project).

Specifications V600 V800
Price $199.99 (Epson website price, March 2016) $739.99 (Epson website price, March 2016)
Maximum Scan Area
  • 8.5″ x 11.7″
  • TPU: 2.7″ x 9.5″
8.5″ x 11.7″
Transparency adapter Type: Built-in lid

Transparency Size: 2.7″ x 9.5″

Supported Film Size:

  • 35 mm mounted slides (4 frames)
  • 35 mm film strips (12 frames)
  • Medium format strips 6×22 cm (2 frames)

Dust/Scratch Removal: Digital ICE for Film

Transparency Size:

  • Transparency adapter: 8″ x 10″ (max size)
  • Transparency adapter using film holders/fluid mount: 5.9″ x 9.74″

Supported Film Size:

  • 35 mm slides (12 frames)
  • 35 mm film strips (18 frames)
  • Medium format film (1 frame, up to 6 x 20 cm)
  • 4″ x 5″ film (1 frame)

Dust/Scratch Removal:

  • Digital Dust Correction via Epson Scan
  • Digital ICE Technologies for Film and Prints
  • Optional Fluid Mount (scanning fluid and supplies not included)
Software
  • Epson Scan included.
  • Silverfast license additional cost.
  • Epson Scan and Silverfast included.
Optical resolution
  • 6400dpi
Hardware resolution
  • 6400 x 9600 dpi
  • 4800 x 9600 dpi
  • 6400 x 9600 dpi with Micro Step Drive™ technology
Effective pixels
  • 54,400 x 74,880 (6400 dpi)
  • 40,800 x 56,160 (4800 dpi)
  • 37,760 x 62,336 (6400 dpi)
Scanning speed
  • High-speed mode: 6400 dpi
  • Color: 21.00 msec / line
  • Monochrome: 21.00 msec / line
  • High-speed mode: 4800 dpi
  • Full Color: 12.3 msec / line (approx.)
  • Monochrome: 12.3 msec / line (approx.)

Our Mobile Copy-stand: The Review

This post is largely based on my experience of using the copy-stand for Culture in Transit’s work with institutions. Maggie & Sarah’s experience of using the copy-stand in a community event setting varies and they’ll address their thoughts/experience separately.

A copy-stand is a device used to capture images or text with a camera. It is used by cultural heritage institutions as an alternative to book scanners or flatbed scanners to digitize historical material.

Generally, a copy-stand is kept in one place, hence is static and (broadly speaking) thought does not need to given to weight or portability of the equipment. A copy-stand usually consists of a baseboard with a center column affixed to it, to which the camera can be mounted. Photographic lights are mostly also used as part of the set-up.

From the outset, we knew we needed to get creative with our interpretation of a copy-stand that could be transported as part of our mobile kit. Heavy baseboards and center columns would just not be feasible, so our attention turned to tripods and material backdrops as alternatives.

The CIT team, as well as some colleagues at METRO have prior experience digitizing historical material, so we knew broadly what pieces of kit we needed. What we didn’t have, was experience building a kit whose first requirement was to be mobile. In today’s age, with all of the advances made in developing lightweight materials, you’d think it would be easy to compile a kit of super lightweight components. As we soon learned, this is not the case.    

After research and a bit of trial and error, we settled on a Canon digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, a tripod that inverts, so the camera can be mounted to it pointing downward, a grey backdrop and daylight balance compact fluorescent desktop lamps.

Our copy-stand set-up

Our copy-stand set-up

 

Since we first compiled the kit back in June, it’s undergone a few modifications and the community and institution kits have diverged slightly. The two differences, are the tripod and the lights. We’ve chosen to only make the changes to one kit because the copy-stand has not been used as readily at community scanning events as it’s been used at METRO member institutions.

Here’s the kit review breakdown;

CameraCanon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR Camera with 18­-55mm Lens

The Canon Rebel T5

The Canon Rebel T5

  • Positives:
    • The camera comes with good software to allow for remote shooting through computer. This has the advantage of not needing to touch the camera whilst affixed to the tripod, negating the risk of accidentally moving it from its precise, perfect angle!
    • In an institutional setting, I have produced good, clear images with the camera. The only caveat to this was at the Wildlife Conservation Society (METRO’s pilot institution) some images of text based material came out slightly unfocused. We hadn’t refined our QA processes yet so unfortunately a few images were unusable. We quickly realized we needed to allow for the step of ensuring the camera is focused for every single shot and not relying on the camera to autofocus itself. Whilst using the EOS Utility software for remote shooting, the focus adjusts from auto to manual, requiring the additional step of ensuring the focus is accurate before image capture every time.
  • Negatives:
    • The biggest obstacle/downside to the camera is lens curvature. This will always present as a problem due to the nature of the construction of the lens. We looked into purchasing a wide angle or macro lens as an alternative but after a bit more in-depth research and asking the advice of the creator of the website Preserving History, we chose to continue on with the lens we have. The Canon EOS T5 has a 1.6 crop factor, meaning the lens mm gets multiplied by 1.6, thus the maximum zoom of 35 mm on the Canon lens is equivalent to 56 mm (35 x 1.6) on a traditional film camera. If we ensure we shoot at 35mm, we diminish the lens curvature issue. The tripod also allows the ability to move the camera closer to the equipment if necessary, instead of zooming with the lens. This issue hasn’t completely gone away as I’ve learned whilst using the copy-stand at Yeshiva University, digitizing posters. I would still be interested in experimenting with a different lens to try and combat this issue and reduce the need for heavy post-processing image editing.      
    • The software used for remote shooting drains the battery very quickly. After an hours work with it onsite at the Wildlife Conservation Society, the battery was dead. We had already purchased a spare camera battery, so we just added one more spare battery to the kit so whilst one is charging and one is in use, we still have a spare to rely on.

Tripod:

Original (and still part of community kit) – Beike BK-555 Foldable Tripod Monopod with Ball Head

  • Positives:
    • Lightweight.
    • Folds down to fit into backpack neatly.

      The original Beike tripod fits neatly in our kit backpack

      The original Beike tripod fits neatly in our kit backpack

  • Negatives:
    • As it’s so lightweight it wasn’t as sturdy as we’d have liked.
    • The tripods were low-quality and began to fall apart quickly.

Alternative (and part of institution kit) – Oben AT­3461 Aluminum Tripod With BA­117T Ball Head

  • Positives:
    • Legs extend out more than original tripod so gives greater flexibility on size of material we can digitize.
  • Negatives
    • Longer legs means it no longer fits into the backpack and needs to be carried separately.
    • Heavier than the original tripod and more expensive.
    • This is a broader negative that would concern any tripod used for a copy-stand, not just this one; as the support column on a static copy-stand is mounted perpendicular to the base, you are able to get the camera perfectly parallel to the base every time. With a tripod – you cannot. We overcame this issue by purchasing a spirit level to check the camera’s angle before every use. 
IMG_5357

The tripod on the left is our Oben tripod, used in the institution kit – one of the positives is the greater leg length.

Verdict: I prefer the alternative tripod we purchased because of its greater stability and leg length. We purchased this as an alternative because when the first tripod arrived, we were concerned it wasn’t robust enough – the positive of it being lightweight, meant the negative of it seeming quite flimsy. I contacted B&H (whose expertise we relied on quite a bit for different pieces of kit) and asked what their best tripod was that inverted and was lightweight and they suggested the Oben. Yes, it is heavier than the Beike and more expensive but on balance, for the sort of work we are doing and the need to produce high-quality output, the extra money and weight has been worth it.      

BackdropePhotoInc 10x10ft solid grey muslin backdrop

  • Positives:
    • Excellent color for photographic work.
    • It works for our purposes as it can be folded up and transported in our backpack.
  • Negatives:
    • Large, very large! It was quite unwieldy to use at first due to its size, so we cut it up into three more manageable pieces.
    • The biggest problem with it is material type. It creases extremely easily and the creases are hard to get out. This can affect the quality of the master image if the creases can be seen in the background.

Verdict: The problem with this bit of kit is I don’t know what a good alternative for use in a mobile kit would be. A backboard, however lightweight would not work as well, as it would need to be limited to a specific size to be packed into our photo case or backpack. We did also give some thought to grey seamless paper (example) too, however because of our need to be portable, paper would not travel well and would be far too easily damaged and creased/possibly ripped. So, on the whole, whilst it’s frustrating that the material creases, it is an excellent colour and adequate backdrop for the work.   

Lights:

Original (and still part of community kit) – CowboyStudio Photography Table Top Photo Studio Lighting Kit

The original lights, still part of the community kit.

The original lights, still part of the community kit.

  • Positives:
    • Easy to put together, comes in multiple parts which allows for easy transportation.
    • Affordable – the kit cost $42 (price correct as of June 2015) for two lights including the bulbs.
  • Negatives:
    • Not very robust – a screw already lost on one kit.
    • Bulbs get hot quite quickly.
    • Even though these lights come equipped with the most suitable bulbs for digitization work (5000K Daylight Balance Compact Fluorescent), they seemed a little to dim to light the material adequately. The material I have digitized with the lights, has had to be lightened a touch in Photoshop.

Alternative (and part of institution kit) – Genaray SpectroLED Outfit 500 Daylight LED Light

The Generay LED lights now part of the institution kit.

The Generay LED lights now part of the institution kit.

  • Positives:
    • Easy to put together and come in their own carry case.
    • As they’re LED, they produce less heat and UV emissions than fluorescent bulbs.
    • Directly comparing them to the other lights I’ve used, they produce a much brighter, more even distribution of light across the material to be digitized.
    • They have a 100-0% dimming function which is extremely useful functionality as it enables you to adapt the lighting dependent on your circumstance. A drawback of a mobile digitization service is you cannot control what environment you will be digitizing in, hence can be limited in your ability to control any natural/artificial light. Having the dimming functionality allows a little more control over lighting of material onsite.
    • Light enough to be picked up and moved around to suit the needs of the digitization. Related to this, they are battery powered, so are no power leads to contend with when positioning and repositioning them.
  • Negatives:
    • Very expensive ($419 per light – price correct as of December 2015). They also do not come with a stand, so that is an additional cost (n.b. we purchased these light stands for the lights on the advice of a B&H rep and they’re great, no complaints).
    • The batteries lasted a total of 2.5 hours of continuous use before they began dying.
    • Related to the previous point, the batteries take a long time to re-charge, around 4 hours. This has the distinct disadvantage of leaving you unable to use the copy-stand for a significant period of time. Knowing this, I adjusted my workflow to work on image editing and metadata whilst the batteries charged, so no real time was lost. An alternative, if workflow adjustment isn’t an option, would be to purchase spare batteries. However, they are expensive ($60 each as at January 2016) and you would need four, which significantly bumps up the cost the lights overall.  

Verdict: Directly comparing them to the original lights we purchased, I prefer these. They produce a better, brighter and more even light for digitization work and I prefer that they are battery powered rather than mains powered so they can be can easily moved around with no wire repositioning. They do come at a cost though. I would recommend purchasing spare batteries for the lights and so for a light set (a light, two spare batteries and a light-stand) you’re looking at over $550 (approx price accurate as at January 2016).  

Solving the problem of not having any glass to flatten rolled posters with book strips and weights.

Solving the problem of not having any glass to flatten rolled posters with book strips and weights.

Other observations
One challenge I faced at my latest host institution, Yeshiva University, was digitizing rolled posters. The ideal solution to rolled material and a feature of traditional copy-stands and book scanners is plexi-glass or a variation of that. I have always had it in mind we could face this issue during the course of the project but again, we have the problem of transporting plexi-glass or variant as part of the mobile kit. As with a copy-stand backboard, it would need to be a certain size to fit into the camera carry case or backpack. This would limit the size of the material we could digitize to the dimensions of the case we were using. Another option could be to purchase a carry case – similar to this – large enough to accommodate plexiglass but again, adding more bulk to the kit. I’ve overcome this obstacle by purchasing thick archival quality book strips and book weights (these and these) to hold the item down at the top and bottom. It’s worked well with the rolled posters at Yeshiva – you have to be careful to angle the lights so the book strips do not catch any light reflection but overall, I’m very happy with this solution.

Conclusions
Is the copy-stand kit mobile? A dictionary will give you the following definition of mobile; “capable of moving or being moved readily”. Based on this definition alone, yes the copy-stand kit is mobile. However, this does not take into account the weight of each item and the transportation case, which hampers its ability to be truly lightweight and mobile.

Putting personal emotions about the copy-stand aside – the kit we have compiled is perfectly functional and more than adequate at digitizing and producing archival quality master images of historical material which is the crux of our needs for it.

The problem, I think, comes with comparisons. We (I know I do) are comparing our kit to a more traditional, in-house copy-stand setup, that can be used in a controlled environment. The two scenarios – in-house and out in the field – are just too different with too many variant factors to be worth comparing. Whilst we’ll never be able to truly replicate an in-house model, what we’ve compiled gives us the ability to provide a service to assist those who have neither the means or the capability to digitize their materials.

Perhaps the key lies in switching careers to design and manufacture high quality, lightweight, and affordable cultural heritage digitization equipment!

**This post has focused on the most important parts of the copy-stand kit – the camera, tripod, lights and backdrop. We will be writing another post reviewing our ancillary kit items that are used with the copy-stand and/or scanner.**

The Great Equipment Weigh In

We talk a lot (maybe too much?!) about portability and ease of transportation of our mobile digitization kits. It’s important because if we want to create a replicable model for others, we need to be fully transparent not only about the quality of the kit we’ve purchased and whether we’d recommend it but also how much it weighs.

So, how much do they weigh?

We’ve given everyone the itemized breakdown and cost of our kits with the publication of our equipment lists. But what we haven’t done is shared with everyone just how much they weigh.

I’ll preface this by saying  the community and institution kits have diverged slightly. The two differences, are the tripod and the lights. We’ve chosen to only make the changes to one kit because the copy-stand has not been used as readily at community scanning events as it’s been used at METRO member institutions.

Here’s the breakdown:

Scanning kit weight: 27.1 lb
*comprised of Epson V600 scanner and case.
*one of the community scanning kits is heavier as it’s comprised of the Epson V800 scanner and a larger case.

Copy-stand kit weight: 18 lb
*comprised of camera, lights and case.

Alternative tripod weight: 4.4 lb
*only used for institution kit.

Alternative lights weight: 13.4 lb
*only used for institution kit.

Backpack weight (with original tripod): 21.3 lb
Backpack weight (with original tripod taken out but new light stands in): 22 lb
*backpack houses laptop, charger, backdrop and ancillary items (the list of which is here).
*the community scanning backpack will be heavier due to the outreach items needed for community events (forms, flyers, banner, tablets, headphones, etc.).

The whole (original) kit ready to go

The whole (original) kit ready to go

Total approx weight of original kit:
66.4 lb (used for community scanning)
*one of the community kits is heavier due to a different scanner and case in use.
*It’s also prudent to add on a couple more lbs to accommodate for the outreach materials.

Total approx weight for modified kit: 84.9 lb (used for institutional scanning)

As we have a couple of new items for the institution copy-stand kit, I’ll be exploring options for a possible new carrying system as although the new lights and tripod all come with their own carry cases, there’s now a few too many things that need carrying. I’ll be sure to write about any solutions we try out.

So, are they lightweight enough to be truly mobile?

The problem is, there’s too much subjectivity in what constitutes a lightweight, manageable kit. What is heavy to one person, can be manageable to another. It’s also situation dependent. For the community scanning events, the whole kit is needed, every time, as you cannot anticipate what material will be brought in to be digitized. In some instances Sarah & Maggie can use their respective libraries delivery systems to transport their kits. However, they often need to transport the kit themselves when community events are scheduled closely together or for far off-site events. They have the added weight in their kits of outreach materials needed for their events (forms, flyers, banner, tablets, headphones, etc.) which pretty much renders the backpack too heavy to be safely carried.

Taking the scanning kit & backpack to METRO host institution New York Academy of Medicine

Taking the scanning kit & backpack on the subway to METRO host institution, New York Academy of Medicine

Institutional scanning allows greater flexibility. Ahead of time, it can be determined what piece of kit will be needed to digitize the material. The relevant kit can then be transported on the subway, as I find it manageable to take one case and a backpack on the subway. I have successfully transported the kit via New York City’s subway system four times, which is a good a test as any for its portability due to the lack of escalators and elevators on the system and generally the narrow and/or overcrowded platforms. If both kits are needed or if the institution is too far a walk from the subway, I will take a car service to the destination.  

This approach does mean you need to factor in a higher transportation cost than just the cost of a subway ride but if you were replicating this model in an area with no mass transit infrastructure, alternative options would need to be considered and transportation costs do need to be a factor in creating a mobile digitization service. Options such as purchasing a vehicle specifically for the service, having a budget for hiring a car, taking a car service or cab/taxi’s as well as taking the kit on mass transit would need to be considered.

What our experiences have taught us are that no one size fits all. Needs of projects are different and what works for some, will not be suitable for others. The bottom line, is that, the kit is mobile in terms of its portability – the equipment can be moved as it’s either in wheeled cases or on our backs. However, this is only true if the whole kit does not need to be moved at once and on balance, weighing in at least 64 lb, it begins to be prohibitively heavy. It would definitely be advisable to factor in generous transportation costs into any budget to successfully move the kit around.

There are options for different equipment also. We have chosen the Epson scanners to be part of our kit because of their ability to scan negatives, amongst other considerations. We seriously considered purchasing the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 as an scanning alternative for the institution kit but eventually decided not to because it cannot produce TIFFs, only PDF and JPEG. A scanner we have not used in this project but one that I have used previously to digitize 19th century manuscript material is the Canon LiDE220. This is a good alternative for small manuscript material. It does not give as much flexibility in terms of range of materials that can be scanned as the Epson but it is extremely lightweight and small (fits in a backpack) and can produce TIFFs.

So there you have it, the true weight of our mobile kits. We hope it’s useful to others who are interested in creating a mobile digitization service.