What does your historical collection look like? Perhaps you have a box of bound manuscripts you’d like preserved for future generations, or maybe you have a library full of historic publications and loose papers that need organizing before you can even think about what the next steps are. The histories humans choose to save and share are vast and varied, and not every approach to digital preservation is going to be the right approach for your collection.
Collections of all shapes and sizes have come through Anderson Archival’s doors over the years. We’ve seen everything from re-processing poorly digitized collections to an oversized map from WWII. Some of our clients had a collection they knew they wanted digitized, but felt overwhelmed trying to start because of all the planning and physical work involved. If you have a bound paper collection that’s been sitting around for a decade and aren’t sure where to start, there are a few options available to you, including the solution of employing professional archivists to take the work out of your hands and get it done right.
Paging Through Paper Collections
Assessing the scope, time allotment, and potential snags beforehand can help your project run smoothly. For those tackling a smaller, loose paper collection, you may find a digitization solution under your own roof. If you own a combination printer/scanner, that may be enough to handle your loose papers. But scanning individual pages using a flatbed scanner is a more time-consuming process than many collectors expect it to be. It requires constant oversight and handling of the materials.
It may be tempting to utilize the auto-feed feature of a scanner for loose materials, but watch out for rips, snags, paper jams, and pages that are stuck together and not digitized. Auto-feeders should never be used for one-of-a-kind or fragile documents.
Collectors rightly expect their materials to be handled with the highest quality care standards when in the custody of a digital archivist.
Scanning bound materials is another matter altogether. Anyone who’s tried to scan a page of a book in a university or library setting knows how difficult it is to capture the entire page in an image—forget about trying to get an exact replica of a page using this method. Page scans will appear crooked, shadowed, blurry, or otherwise obscured by the limitations of a flatbed scanner.
For an accurate capture on a flatbed scanner, bound books would need to be split at the spine, damaging the original in order to capture high quality scans. Pressing books into a flatbed scanner is less risky in terms of damage to the book if the spine is well-bound, but often results in a lower-quality image. Fortunately, there is no need to resort to destructive methods of digitization. Alternate scanning technology is the best solution for collectors who have not digitized for fear of causing damage to their physical materials. You need not compromise the integrity of the original to preserve it.
Cradle Your Collection
A great addition to any digitization setup is a V-cradle scanner, which allows the capture of high-quality images with much less damage to the physical material compared to a traditional flatbed or auto-feeder scanner. A V-cradle scanner allows archivists to fully scan bound materials without splitting the book’s binding or damaging delicate originals.
These scanners, like all technology, vary in specifications and end results. The more elaborate and expensive scanners possess innovative constructions of cameras, lights, mechanical design, and image capture software. Full-spectrum light creates a reliable image that reflects the original exactly.
V-cradle scanners can boast superior image quality, robust software, and modular imaging technology that’s easily adaptable for materials with specific constraints. Any industry-grade scanners should be able to meet FADGI guidelines for quality images. The intuitively-shaped V-cradles come in a variety of sizes with adjustable settings and can support most standard-size books, enabling digitization of many kinds of books depending on the chosen cradle size. For institutions or archival companies who have this type of scanner, the power, specs, and flexibility open the door to a wider variety of project opportunities.
V-cradle scanners can boast superior image quality, robust software, and modular imaging technology that’s easily adaptable for materials with specific constraints.
Compare this system to that of the Afro-American’s Project Gado, which allows the newspaper to employ an efficient digitization process for their overwhelming amount of photographs saved over the years. Of course, a bespoke solution like Project Gado isn’t a feasible option for the individual collector who wants to digitize their bound materials, and neither is permanently damaging an entire collection just to make digital copies on a traditional scanner.
Collectors rightly expect their materials to be handled with the highest quality care standards when in the custody of a digital archivist. The collections themselves need a safe and confidential storage area, especially for old or delicate materials susceptible to damage from environmental factors. Collectors often know from experience that storing materials in a damp basement or drafty attic will have an effect on paper materials, so an archival storage area free of mold, pests, and light pollution is essential.
Professional archivists have the space and knowledge to keep your collection as safe as possible during every step of the digitization process. They understand the storage needs of paper, which can be volatile depending on age and condition. They’re also trained in handling old or fragile materials, preventing accidents that may occur with less experienced collection custodians.
Investing in the right equipment, hours of organization and scanning, and the education required to process a collection the right way often isn’t feasible for individuals or busy organizations. Digitization professionals come with the right tools for the job. Reaching out for help from a firm with the right resources and know-how takes care of everything.
What does your bound collection need? Let Anderson Archival know how we can help fulfill your vision for your digitized collection! Call 314.259.1900 or complete a free consultation form to introduce your history to our solutions.