Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Digital Production: Tools of the Trade

Today I'd like to highlight the Digital Production Unit, a cozy corner of Baker Library where we, along with the crucial help of many other library departments and staff, help to bring digital content to the Dartmouth community.

Baker 02: where the magic happens

Any good workshop needs the right tools for the job, and ours is no different. As I mentioned in my post about Optical Character Recognition, the Digital Production Unit deals with a very wide variety of library materials, from 18th century manuscripts to an audio lecture by J. Robert Oppenheimer and related materials. It is a simple fact that Dartmouth Library's Special Collections have a fantastic variety of useful scholarly objects, and it behooves us to be as versatile and efficient as possible in bringing these into digital space.

Scanning workstations

Our most commonly used pieces of equipment are our two flatbed scanners: the Epson Perfection V750-Pro and the Epson Expression 10000XL.

Epson Perfection V750-Pro

The Perfection V750 is an excellent consumer-level machine. It's small, relatively inexpensive, and perfectly able to create high quality images up to our standards. Most importantly, this scanner has a considerable speed advantage when compared to...

...the Epson Expression 10000XL

The Epson Expression XL is, first and foremost, a significant upgrade from the Perfection in terms of scanning area, which is over twice as large as the Perfection's. It is also a very versatile machine, with attachments for scanning photographic negatives in addition to the usual capabilities. In terms of scanning quality the two Epson scanners are roughly equal, however, due to the Expression's larger scan area, it has a significantly slower scanning speed, which can become problematic on time-sensitive items.

Kodak PS810

The other crucial piece of equipment in our lab is the Kodak Picture Saving Scanner System PS810. This scanner has a much more specific function than the Epsons. Its strength is speed; the feed tray can pull through and scan several photos per-minute, indeed, hundreds in a single operation. This is incredibly useful in dealing with our biggest project yet: the Dartmouth Photographic Files, an impressively large collection spanning back to the very beginnings of the College's photographic records.

While this scanner excels at scanning many documents quickly, it is even more limited in scanning area than the Epson Perfection. Not only that, but items must be under a certain thickness in order to pass through the feed safely. Additionally, it can only scan at 24-bit color (as opposed to the Epson scanners' 48-bit colors), which renders it ineligible for many projects. While these drawbacks make it somewhat limited in applications, it performs very well when properly maintained (our procedures have it cleaned daily, and sometimes more often than that).

In addition to the equipment in Baker 02, we also have been known to occasionally borrow other library resources in accomplishing our goals.

The Indus Color Book Scanner 5002

This overhead-style scanner is exceptional for scanning entire books, as its adjustable platform can accommodate different-sized spines. Another advantage is speed; this scanner works similar to a camera, snapping a single digital picture and transferring it to the computer. The biggest disadvantage is image quality; like the Kodak scanner, its limited to 24-bit color.

The Vidar HD4230

Finally, for oversize documents we've had occasion to coordinate with the Evans Map Room and make use of their feed-scanner, the Vidar HD4230. This scanner creates very high quality images by feeding larger documents through it, rather than passing lamps over stationary documents, like a flatbed scanner does. The speed of scanning is relatively slow, and must be done carefully to insure the document's safety. However, for many projects such as the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of New Hampshire, this scanner is the only option to ensure the quality of images over a certain size.

Using these tools, and with the invaluable support of many library staff, we've been able to adapt to the myriad challenges in Digital Production. Personally, I look forward to what further challenges await.
Written by Ryland Ianelli.

1 comment:

  1. Can I just say, I have seen a VidarHD in real life and they are masssiivveee!