UConn Digital Production and Conservation Labs: 2015 Year in Review
My colleague, UConn Libraries' Conservator Carole Dyal, and I recently decided to put together a visual survey of some of the collaborative work that we've been doing during the past year. The idea was prompted by the Libraries' upper administration who wanted to fold such content into a greater year-end summary for the entire organization. In turn, Carole and I aimed for a quick, elevator speech type of layout using words and inline images that we eventually forwarded on in an email. No deep dive.
Since I'm occasionally asked, what is it exactly that you do at work, I thought that I would take the general idea of what Carole and I had put together and elaborate on it a bit with this post and companion gallery. So, beginning with my Digital Production Lab, these were some of the highlights of 2015...
Two pieces of artwork from the UConn Archives’ Charles Olson collection were captured for a publication of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Here's one of the objects (Cy Twombly at Black Mountain, by Fielding Dawson, 1951) as it was being photographed in the lab.
(Molesworth, H., Erickson, R., Institute of Contemporary Art, Yale University Press, Hammer Museum, Wexner Center for the Arts, & Black Mountain College. (2015). Leap Before You Look : Black Mountain College, 1933-1957. pgs 280, 319.)
Additionally, work on the remaining Jerauld A. Manter photograph collection of medium format flexible negatives, which began in September 2014, was also finished this past September. More than 7,000 digital images were created which document many aspects of the early history of the University of Connecticut, Storrs up until 1965. Here's a view of one of the copy stand and light table setups that we employ to capture such medium format film:
Rare books, particularly ones with difficult-to-photograph foldouts, also fall within our scope. We welcome challenging materials like these which often come our way, since in many instances they will remain un-digitized by other holders or digitized in a folded up state because of their physical complexities. Here's an example (Versuch einer Naturgeschichte der Eingeweidewürmer thierischer Körper by von Johann August Ephraim Goeze, Leipzig 1787) that we received this year for reformatting. In this volume, the foldouts were made up of separate light weight leafs that were attached backwards onto the bound pages, then folded back into the book.
Here student photographer, Josh O'Brien, builds a custom support that allows for the flattening of one of the foldout pages for accurate photography without making a hard, possibly damaging crease where the foldout is attached to the bound page...
Ready for shooting.... and eventual deposit into our Fedora repository.
Here's an example of a large format map foldout from the United States Geological Survey Monograph 52, Plate 8, Mesabi District Minnesota, 1911 that we were asked to shoot by the USGS. Mercifully the map was not bound inside the monograph but was instead, along with a number of other folded maps, tucked into a pocket that was affixed to the inside back board.
All total, more than 130,000 images have been created so far this year from a wide variety of original formats and collections using the lab’s various imaging equipment and staff expertise. This is an aerial view of 1/2 of the lab's floor (the opposite side of the room is an almost mirror image of similar gear and workstations). It's truly rewarding to work both with such unique original materials and to be able to teach advanced digital imaging techniques and asset management skills to a bright and focused staff:
In Carole's shop, they have completely integrated the archive and special collections' digitization workflow into Conservation. So far this year they have reviewed more than 2,700 folders and treated approximately 500 individual documents.
Together, Carole and I strategize almost daily on format feasibility assessments and on object treatments and preparations in order to better optimize the overall digital production workflow. It's a fruitful, ongoing collaboration that is essential in order to conduct reformatting efforts both accurately and to scale.