Category Archives: Digitizing

white on white

Digitization Blues – Scanning Negatives

Photographers are artists and have ideas on how they want their art to look. When an image is printed by the photographer, whether via chemical processing or digital photo editing and a printer, it is ideally created with the photographer’s artistic choices. Thus, scanning this photograph is merely choosing to make it look like the original (“merely” is a bad word choice because it’s not that easy, but it’s easier than the area in which I’m about to delve).

pink glow

Figure 1 Pink v. White Glow War – adjust mid-tone and exposure. Desaturate if necessary.


Scanning Negatives is a whole different circus. The digitizer has highlights and shadows to set and guide the process, but not the photographer’s eye to help show what the artist intended. Why did he or she light the area so? Why did he not plan for the white of the wedding dress to wash out the bride’s face? Why did she not see that the guest in the bright red would have a glow war with the white of the groom’s tux? For class photos in school, I was constantly reminded by my mother not to wear white or red because of how it discolors my face in the photo, so it’s not a foreign concept to some, but it is an issue that is easier dealt with before the negative is made, even if only by the photographer’s choices.


white on white

Figure 2 White on White –front lighting blends the white – use contrast and mid-tone adjustment to balance

Those who digitize can only do triage, however. There are many different settings in the scanning software, Photoshop, and other photo editors where one can choosing type of film, highlights, shadows, saturation, contrast, and the like that help fix each issue, but it becomes an intricate balance of setting adjustment to make the image turn out. Just when the guest’s red dress doesn’t make her skin look burned and the groom’s tux no longer washes out his face, the digitizer sees that the bride’s dress has embroidered white on white. This is after fighting with lens flash flares, reflection glares, and Moiré patterns from the glossiness of the negative (the quick fix for the latter is to flip it over and reverse the image in the scanning program).


It would be simple to give the photographer the shopping list of ideas on watching that mirror or window’s impact, using natural lighting, and telling people not to wear bright red, yellow, or white. However, most photographers know how to work with these elements and work around these elements. The digitizer can’t be choosy. So, it’s back to adjusting the highlights and shadows to keep the photo from washing out, easing the contrast up to bring back details, watching the saturation to keep the colors overcoming lighter colors, and checking your mid-tone range.

Thoughts on a data migration

When I arrived at Wright State University Libraries in the end of January 2013, as a new librarian, I had no idea that one task would dominate so much of my time here. Shortly after my arrival we were alerted to the fact that our DSpace-based Institutional Repository would no longer be supported. Since I was originally going to be the primary librarian uploading content to CORE (our DSpace IR) I was chosen to be the “migration guy.”

The migration impacted the next year of my life. I was suddenly in charge of moving 5,000 items from our DSpace platform to our new Digital Commons repository. We began talking about the migration in February and March of 2013, and the last nail was driven into the migration’s coffin in December of that year.

I presented on my experience at the 2013 DCGLUG (Digital Commons Great Lakes Users’ Group) Conference, for the OHIODIG (Ohio Digitization Interest Group) in January, and most recently at SOA’s (Society of Ohio Archivists) Annual Conference.  The last two presentations were performed as part of a group. I wanted to use this post to collect what I learned from these presentations:

NUMBER 1: It’s a learning process.

I didn’t know how to perform a website audit. I didn’t know how the handles (persistent URLs) were maintained. I didn’t really know much about our collections. That being said, I investigated how others prepared a website audit (they counted links and pages). I researched the Handle System and ultimately found out that maintaining it would incur a separate expense as well as cost us time. I also learned about the Wright Brothers, a variety of oral histories from the area, and more.

NUMBER 2: It is a learning process, but be practical about how you use your time.

In my research for ways to perform an audit I found that some people used web-crawler software; however, I found it to be unreliable and difficult to retrieve consistent results. So I abandoned it. I manually clicked through every page listing the communities, series, and all the items attached to records.

We were offered a PERL application from Asbury Theological Seminary. I lacked the familiarity to use it properly; thus, I abandoned that too.

I had to make the decision about whether to spend extra time attempting to understand these programs with an unsure final outcome, or I could get to work, performing tedious tasks, but accomplishing something. I choose to start the project.

NUMBER 3: The Most Important Thing about Migrating Your Content…It takes time.

The process will take longer than you estimate. This was a truth echoed by my peers as well. No matter the planning and best efforts, there will always be unforeseen anomalies that need their own special solution. The differences in how the two systems worked often required me to re-evaluate my planning.

In the end I learned a lot about our collections, DSpace, Digital Commons, and most importantly how to plan and carry out a migration between systems. I’m sure, that if I ever have to migrate again, there will be new issues and concerns; however, I have a solid plan of attack and am confident on how to proceed. I’ll just hope I don’t have to perform another migration for a long time…

Digitizing the Wright Family Photograph Album

The Wright Brothers are among the most historical of Dayton families, and the interest in their legacy continues. For this reason we were asked by Special Collections and Archives to digitize and make available through CORE Scholar the Wright Family Album. Fortunately for Wright State, much of their history lies within the Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives, and the family album is no exception. The Wright Family album was begun circa 1880, and contains portraits of members and friends of the Wright family. The process of maintaining historical preservation of the album while digitizing is a delicate process.

wrightalbum_blog2As often the case, archived materials are very brittle. There was no question that the family album had to be shot in our camera room; such a historical piece can be both cumbersome to work with and very brittle in nature, due to the aging over time. Because of these factors, neither our Epson Expression 10000XL flatbed scanner, or the Indus BookScanner 9000 were used during the digitization process. The capturing of the Wright album was done by our Nikon D200 SLR camera positioned on our Industria Fototecnica Firenze Super Repro copy stand, because of the flexibility it allows during the capturing process. The Wright Family album was shot using archival standard gloves and the album was positioned on the camera table using archival foam book cradles. Our camera table and copy stand allows us the convenience to suspend the Nikon overhead on a vertical beam in order to take pictures of our objects from above.  This gives us an even balanced image of the materials being captured. Along with our Nikon camera, there’s accompanying photo editing software called Camera Control Pro 2 with ViewNX 2 used to capture archival based raw files to be edited and stored. Once the family album was shot, the images were processed using Adobe Photoshop, allowing us to straighten and crop the images accordingly.wrightalbum_blog1

You can now view the newly shot Wright Family Photograph Album on, CORE Scholar.

The album itself contains 7 tintypes; which is essentially the primitive day version of a Polaroid. The process was taking a direct positive of a photograph, on a thin sheet of iron – commonly used during carnivals for quick takeaway pictures. You can view these tintypes within the Wright Album on our website, CORE Scholar.

For more information about Wright State University’s Institutional Repository please visit our website, CORE Scholar.

For more information about Special Collections and Archives and the Wright Brother’s Collection visit their website, Special Collections and Archives.