Digifun with Historical Bibliography

As part of the Digitisation Fundamentals and their Application (aka digifun) course at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute I have been learning the basics of the digitisation process for a range or media types. I have very little experience with the fundamentals of digitisation, I have only previously worked with the end product. IT felt that that I was missing so much by not understanding the processes involved. The DHSI course in digitisation is the perfect opportunity for me to learn more.

Thanks to Anne, I have a mini project to practice my new found understanding for the digitisation process.  My task for the week is dealing with early printed book facsimile pages and thinking about the best way to digitise them.

Title pages from some early printed books and one entire 19th century book (missing its boards).  The aim is to  digitise the title pages for use in Historical Bibliography module at UCL with students for the quasi facsimile (title page facsimile) practice.

First thing we were taught to think about is how the images will be used. Images designed for print, for the web or for archival purposes are all very different. For the purpose of my historical bibliography project the images are required for printed teaching materials as well as web images.

  • Imaging for Print – in order to print a digital image, you need to ensure that you have a high resolution image.  The two things to consider are the physical print size and the resolution.
  • Imaging for the web – for easy viewing images files should be in JPG or GIF, which are lossy and compressed. Aim to balance image quality with size.

There are two options for capturing visual media, objects, documents etc: Flatbed scanning and digital Photography.

Today I experimented with digital photography. Using a octopus like contraption which amounts to a camera mount and a bunch of lightbulbs.  Looks evil, but is actually quite easy to use.

Photography techniques may be more useful when you are working with delicate materials, 3D objects or massive materials like maps.  What I liked about the digital photography techniques is that there is an element of trial and error at get the right combination of camera, settings and lighting.

Some points to note:

  • try to control lighting conditions as much as possible
  • experiment with different combinations of cameras, lighting, resolution and file formats until you find one that is adequate.
  • the settings to take a good image of one document might not be right  for a different document.

One thing that was really apparent is depending on lighting you can see a lot of ‘phantom’ text or images from the other side of the page coming through. So my thing to try tomorrow is to use a black poster board to try and diminish the phantomness.

It’s strange digitisation appears to be quite a straight forward process, but its such a steep learning curve when you are starting from scratch.

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