Wrapping It All Up: Institutional Scanning at Fordham University

All good things must come to an end. And, so it is, that June saw me wheel my mobile digitization kit to the last institution we would be working with as part of the Culture in Transit project.

Fordham University was my last stop. Set in lush grounds, high up in the Bronx, it neighbors our very first CIT institution, the Wildlife Conservation Society – a nice way to wrap up the project; to end where we began!

The items to be digitized were a collection of pamphlets and broadsides concerned with the Italian Unification. This was the political and social movement during the nineteenth century that saw the consolidation of different states of the Italian peninsula form into the Kingdom of United Italy.

One of the broadsides scanned at Fordham University.

One of the broadsides scanned at Fordham University.

The pamphlets and broadsides are an important collection of documents that offer detail into the Italian Unification from the perspective of the Catholic Church. They give a snapshot of the Church at a specific time and place and deal with not only the politics of the Unification but touch on different aspects of the unification process as well as general daily life during this period from a Catholic point of view.

The scanning at Fordham also provided a great new testing opportunity for a new scanner we added to our kit recently; the Epson 11000XL*. This is a tried and tested scanner that is reliably used in many an archive across the country and also internationally. We wanted to add it to the kit to offer more flexibility in the size of documents we could scan as well as the flexibility to be able to digitize a broader range of transparencies compared to the V600.

One of the broadsides scanned using the Epson 11000XL.

One of the broadsides scanned using the Epson 11000XL.

We love our V600 but this addition allows us to offer an even more comprehensive service and certainly, in this instance, allowed us to digitize the Fordham pamphlets with ease. The scan bed was large enough on the 11000XL to scan the pamphlet 2 pages at a time; the V600 would have only allowed for 1 page at a time, so more time would have been spent, positioning the pamphlet on the scan bed, adjusting the filename and doing the pre-scan in Silverfast – only seconds for each page but it would have added up to substantial minutes over all pamphlets scanned. It does take longer to scan with the Epson 11000XL vs. the V600 but I don’t view this as lost time as I was able to work on metadata and derivative creation/derivative editing whilst the 11000XL scanned.

There’s a lot of activity going on behind the scenes now to prepare the collection for ingest in METRO’s Digital Culture. We’ll be, as always, announcing the publication of the collection on Twitter in the coming weeks – so stay tuned!

*disclaimer: The Epson 11000XL is much larger and heavier than the V600. It isn’t our first choice scanner for mobile digitization jobs – but we love it all the same!

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.)

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans: Institutional Scanning at Bronx Community College

When you think of the Hall of Fame, what springs to mind? I’ll admit that when I first saw the application for the Hall of Fame collection to considered for METRO’s Culture in Transit service, I did think it related to the baseball Hall of Fame. However, this Hall of Fame – the Hall of Fame for Great Americans – and its history is infinitely more interesting (to me) than baseball’s equivalent.

The Hall of Fame colonnade

The Hall of Fame colonnade

This collection was the focus of my on-site digitization work for February when Bronx Community College hosted me for 2 weeks. Nestled high in the Bronx, on a plateau that overlooks the Harlem River, Fort Tryon Park and the Palisades, lies a neoclassical colonnade replete with busts of some of the most prominent Americans to have ever lived, honoring their impact on the nation’s history. From past Presidents to scientists, inventors, activists and reformers, the Hall of Fame is a place of reflection and inspiration.

Bronx Community College Library boasts a beautiful painting of the Hall of Fame.

Bronx Community College Library boasts a beautiful painting of the Hall of Fame.

The archive collection brings the Hall of Fame to life; it has a fascinating history that is revealed when you begin looking through the documents. Designed by Stanford White, of the powerhouse architectural firm that was Mckim, Mead & White, the Hall of Fame was dedicated on May 30, 1901. Originally owned by NYU and built as part of their expansion into the Bronx, organizations and ordinary people could nominate members to the Hall of Fame. By the 1970s, NYU was facing financial difficulties and sold its Bronx campus to the State Dormitory Authority, which gave it to CUNY – the last election to the Hall of Fame was in 1976. Of particular interest in the archive collection is this difficult period during the 1970s with documents revealing that NYU sought to relocate the Hall of Fame to different areas in the City. I was interested to see a lot of letters from Robert Moses, an infamous figure in NYC’s history and his involvement in the attempted relocation’s of the Hall of Fame.

Some items from the collection I digitized

Some items from the collection I digitized

From a digitization perspective, it was an easy collection to digitize. I scanned the majority of it, just using the copy stand for a couple of larger items. The challenge was its size – it’s an extensive collection, that was far too large to digitize whole in a two week stretch, so prior to my arrival the archive staff carefully went through the collection, selecting items that would form a capsule collection to reflect and tell the story of the Hall of Fame. This is key when offering a mobile digitization service and working with different institutions – it’s vital to lean on local knowledge to ensure items can be selected that reflect the larger and broader history of a collection. This allowed us to demonstrate the importance and rich history of the Hall of Fame in 142 items. I’m in no way detracting from the importance and rationale of digitizing a whole collection, simply looking at it from a different perspective – some digitized content is better than no digitized content. The items digitized can form the basis to showcase the collection and its importance that could lead to further opportunities down the road. An aside from this collection but something that illustrates this point perfectly – White Plains Public Library, who were our hosts in September when I digitized 246 items from their local history collection, recently used the content I digitized in a Knight News Challenge proposal – Virtual White Plains. This was really exciting to see and we wish them luck with their application!

One of the entrances to the 630 foot open air Hall of Fame.

One of the entrances to the 630 foot open air Hall of Fame.

Thinking back to the rationale for Culture in Transit, which is something I often do when working with a new institution, this type of collection is also a perfect example of demonstrating the value of a mobile digitization service. I’m the first to admit I didn’t know about the Hall of Fame and talking to colleagues and others, it turns out they didn’t know about it either. Cultural heritage institutions are full of collections just like this one – collections that tell vital stories of the City’s history that deserve to be told on a broader platform. This collection isn’t just NYC-centric, it’s USA-centric – it champions the people who made important contributions to the history of America and the world (Alexander Graham Bell has a bust in the Colonnade) and digitization gives us the ability to add not only to our collective memory but to the historical record of New York.

The Wright brothers, inventors and aviation pioneers, have busts in the Hall of Fame.

The Wright brothers, inventors and aviation pioneers, have busts in the Hall of Fame.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter, as we’ll be letting everyone know when the collection is ready and published on Digital Culture!

Our Streets, Our Stories Oral History Project

Our community scanning events are opportunities to share stories and connect with local history, making them an ideal time to collect oral history interviews. We often find that during the digitization process our donors launch into stories about a particular place or event, sharing valuable memories of a time we’re desperately trying to capture and preserve. Having an oral historian present at our events makes for an easy transition from casual conversation to an archived interview.

At the Brooklyn Public Library I’m lucky to be able to work with the Department of Outreach Services’ Our Streets, Our Stories oral history project. This is an ongoing project that aims to create a neighborhood-specific archive of interviews collected from Brooklyn residents. While the majority of interviews are conducted at library branches, they also visit senior centers and local community organizations.

Our Streets, Our Stories Oral History Project table at the Greenpoint community scanning event

Our Streets, Our Stories Oral History Project table at the Greenpoint community scanning event

The Our Streets, Our Stories oral history project always has a table at my community scanning events. They come prepared with promotional materials and a listening station loaded with past interviews. Anyone can sit and listen to stories collected all over the borough, and if a patron expresses interest, a staff member will take them to a quiet room (usually the librarian’s office) and record a 15-30 minute interview. Interview topics are broad, and can be dictated by the interviewee or guided by the staff member.

The interviews are eventually available to the public through the project’s Tumblr and Soundcloud accounts. For this reason each participant must sign a consent form granting the interview at Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, identical to the Creative Commons license I attach to the images donated at my scanning events. This allows the audio to be shared and remixed for any non-commercial purpose, as long as the interviewee is credited.

Taina Evens interviewing Frank Seddio, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Brooklyn at the Paerdegat Library

Oral historian Taina Evens interviewing Frank Seddio, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Brooklyn at the Paerdegat Library

This audio archive is an extremely valuable resource, and even more so when we can collect both images and an interview from one individual. Working together, it provides us with a more complete picture of a person’s life and experience. A great example is Christopher Dunne, an artist living in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood. Mr. Dunne donated over 60 items at our community scanning event, including promotional materials for his art exhibits, sketches and painting reproductions. He also donated almost an hour of his time to an oral history interview, where he read aloud from his journal and talked about his 20+ years as a Clinton Hill resident:

Item donated by Christopher Dunne

Item donated by Christopher Dunne

Working with the oral history team has proved mutually beneficial. Donors who bring items to be scanned at our events will often also consent to an interview and vice versa. It’s a great way to build both collections and make the events more enriching for our donors.