Category Archives: Digital Production Center

Paste Paper Workshop

Just before leaving Trent Hall, the Conservation staff took advantage of the outdoor space to participate in a paste paper workshop on July 31, 2008. This technique of creating decorative paper using pigments and wheat starch paste is one of the earliest forms used for covers and endpapers. It is commonly found on materials from the 16th to 18th centuries and is still used today.

We used samples from the Jantz collection as inspiration to create, and in some cases re-create, patterns that are both decorative as well as useful for our work. Working outside on a hot and humid summer day was interesting, especially when it rained and we had to move into the women’s restroom in Trent Hall. Luckily for us there was plenty of space in the old dorm restroom to complete our work!  Duke University Library staff may read more about this in the September 2008 IB.

In other news, the Conservation Lab has returned to Perkins Library along with the Digital Production Center and Winston Atkins. We moved on August 25-26th, and have been unpacking and settling into our new space. At some point in the near future we hope to have a formal open house to officially open the new lab.

Building a Digital Collection One Step at a Time

The Fall 2010 issue of Duke University Libraries Magazine includes an article on the steps it takes to create a digital collection.

Michael Adamo, Noah Huffman and Richard Murray

A visitor exploring one of the Duke Libraries’ digital collections is probably too engrossed in the content to think very much about how the collection got there. In fact, each digital collection is the product of a collaboration of eight to ten staff from several library departments who work together in a cross-functional team. The team begins each new project with a workplan and proceeds through a series of steps that culminates in the collection’s public launch.

Continue reading the article at Duke Magazine.

10 Projects: Analog to Digital

Our new exhibit it up!

10 Projects: Analog to Digital highlights some of our favorite digitization projects from the Digital Production Center. For the past five years the men and women in DPC have worked to bring our collections to new life in digital format. You can find these collections through Duke Digital Collections.

For more on the DPC staff, search our site for our Ten Years, Ten People posts. You might also want to follow the Digital Collections Blog, one of many blogs hosted by the Library.

The exhibit is open during regular Perkins/Bostock hours. We are located on the Lower Level (same level as the Link), by Room 023.

Here’s Your Mule

It’s Manuscript Day in the lab, similar to Boxing Day, wherein we all work on flat paper repair. Today we are continuing the Broadside Project, getting these items ready for their close up in the Digital Production Center. North Carolina is this month’s project, and this little gem caught my eye. It’s from the New Bern (NC) Republican Banner, dated April 1884.

Mary has been repairing the tears and losses on this broadside with Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste. After the tissue is applied, a blotter is placed on top with a weight until dry. When the digitization is complete, these will come back to Conservation for rehousing.

Ethiopic Manuscript Digitization Project

As you may know we have been working with the Digital Production Center to digitize the scrolls in the Ethiopic Manuscript collection. I’ve posted some images from that project, not the high-resolution ones the DPC is creating, but some snaps I made during the imaging of items that I found particularly interesting. You can find them in our Flickr Ethiopic Manuscript Project album.

The date ranges are fairly recent but you can see traditional vellum joins and repairs in the scrolls. I always find it interesting how people utilized defects in the skins to their advantage. I also find the graphic depictions to be wonderfully modern and very geographic, and the colors are amazing. You never know what you will find when you start digging through collections. One wooden icon (not the one shown here) has been previously repaired with dental floss. File that under “use what you have on hand.”

Ten Years, Ten People: Rita Johnston, Digitization Assistant for Road 2.0 Project

Rita Johnston, Digitization Assistant for ROAD 2.0 project has been with the department for one year. She is digitizing outdoor advertising materials described in the Resource of Outdoor Advertising Descriptions database. The bulk of materials being digitized for this project are from the OAAA Archives and OAAA Slide Library collections, but some images from the John Paver Papers and the John E. Brennan Survey Reports are also included.

The project includes about 15,000 photographs and negatives which Rita has digitized, and I have about 12,000 slides which she has sent to a vendor for digitization. She uses different equipment including flatbed scanners and the Zeutschel 14000 A2 scanner for photographs and the Phase One Camera for transparent materials such as negatives. Rita is wrapping up the digitization phase of the project and will begin focusing her attention on normalization and cleanup of the metadata in the ROAD database.

When asked what is the most interesting collection you have worked with, Rita replied:

Since I have mostly been working with materials from the OAAA Archives, the OAAA Archives is the most interesting collection I have worked with. There is a great deal of variety in the content and types of materials in the collection. Much of the subject matter is of billboards, art designs, and other forms of outdoor advertising from the 1910s to the early 1980s.

The subject matter includes food & beverages, local businesses, political propaganda, cars, financial institutions, movies, and of course, beer and cigarettes. It’s really interesting to see how much billboards have changed over time, from the beautiful hand painted signs of the early to mid 20th century to machine printed billboards of later years.

There are even a few interesting examples in the collection of cellulose acetate negatives breaking down. All negatives are prone to deterioration over time, and the process may be sped up if negatives are exposed to high heat and humidity. Some of the negatives smell strongly of vinegar and are warped and cracked where the emulsion is breaking down.

We are all eagerly awaiting Rita’s project to be online. Thanks Rita for all of your hard work!

Ten Years, Ten People: Mike Adamo, Digital Production Developer

Mike Adamo, Digital Production Developer, arrived at Duke just over five years ago. Mike graduated with a degree in Photography in 1993 after which he opened and operated a table-top advertising studio for three years in Atlanta Georgia. After that Mike worked in a stock photography studio as a black and white printer for four years. The studio switched from analog to digital photography while he was there so Mike learned about color calibration and color profiles, which was relatively new at the time. He came to Duke after working for four years as a supervisor of a digital imaging unit at a library automation software company in Virginia.

As a Digital Production Developer Mike assess Library collections for digitization, creates images for high end print projects, and designs workflows for digitization projects in the Digital Production Center. He is also responsible for calibrating and maintaining the various cameras and scanners that they use in their daily operations.

When asked about his favorite preservation project, Mike responded:

My favorite project over the years has been building the Digital Production Center. When I started on March 14, 2005, the Digital Production Center was located on Perkins lower level behind the copy room and was often used as a shortcut from the lower level to the RBMSCL. We had one Epson Expression 10000 and a BetterLight scanback fresh out of the box. The camera room had previously been a traditional wet darkroom. The sinks had been removed but some of the plumbing remained jutting out of the walls and though the tiles had been scrubbed clean the chemical stains from years past were still present.
The questions at the time were: What is a digital collection? How do we represent the physical item digitally? What metadata scheme should we use and how do we capture it? While from a distance these questions seem fairly simple and straight forward once we started building digital collections we had to apply the concepts of sustainability and scalability while being as transparent as possible. Easy… right?

Since then, we have moved 3 times and are now in our permanent space (I think). This space was specifically designed with the Digital Production Center in mind. Our air handler is HEPA filtered, the lighting is full spectrum, the monitors are color calibrated, the walls are 18% gray, the floor is cork and we have a large vault that we share with Conservation.

We added another flatbed scanner, a dedicated quality control station, a P65 Phase One R-Cam, a Zeutschel 14000 A2, a SAMMA Solo video encoder a high-end light table (for digitizing negatives on the Phase One), 2 FTE, additional students and a database to track production and collect technical metadata. In addition to all of this a few months ago we added a Scribe book scanner through the Internet Archive. Our production rates have gone from 4000 + digital images the first year to a projected 100,000 digital images this year and that doesn’t include the images created using the Scribe.

We have come a long way in a short time.

You can see some of the work that Mike and the DPC staff on the Digital Collections Blog.

Ten Years, Ten People: Oscar Arias, Digitization Specialist

Oscar Arias has been at Duke University Libraries for eleven years. Six months ago he joined the staff of the Digital Production Center as a Digitization Specialist. The DPC digitizes rare and fragile items to make them available in digital format.

Oscar is usually involved in any of the three main stages of the digitizing process: assessing the collection to develop a digitizing work flow and digitization guide, the actual scanning or digitizing of materials (using a variety of scanners or video digitizing equipment), and the quality control phase.

When asked to describe an interesting project he has worked on, Oscar replied:

One of the most interesting collections I’ve worked with is the collection of papers of Marshall T. Meyer. Dr. Meyer was an American activist Rabbi who worked in Argentina in the 1970’s, during the period of military dictatorship and repression. This period gave way to what came to be known as “La Guerra Sucia,” or the Dirty War, as it came to be known, in which thousands of Argentine citizens were “Desaparecidos,” or disappeared and presumed dead, or incarcerated without trial for suspected opposition to the government.

Rabbi Meyer was an activist and advocate for human rights during this dark period of Argentine history, and he personally advocated for the release of political prisoners. As part of the collection that we had to digitize, there were many original hand-written letters from prisoners and other original documents filled with gut wrenching testimonies of arrests, incarcerations and torture, and the desperate plight of family members of those disappeared or incarcerated.

I remember reading in school in some distant history book about the military dictatorship in Argentina in the late 1970’s. But being able to browse and read some of these hand-written, first-hand accounts in Spanish (my native language) was a profoundly different experience. It helped to remember that behind the news headlines of some distant conflict or behind the title of a chapter in a history book, there are real human beings with names and faces and real stories of tragedy during times of war and oppression. I look forward to the time of the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 4:2)

Note on image: Correspondence to Rabbi Meyers from Deborah Esther Benchoam, a political prisoner who was held in cell 55 of the Villa Devoto women’s prison during the repression. From the RBMSCL Marshall T. Meyer Collection.

Ten Years, Ten People: Alex Marsh, Digitization Specialist

Alex Marsh is a Digitization Specialist in the Digital Production Center. He has been with us for five months and works primarily with rare and fragile materials from a variety of collections. He has recently worked with the Ethiopic Manuscripts collection, Duke University Herbarium materials, and American broadsides from the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections. Many of these will be made available through our digital collections portal.

Alex works with several different cameras to digitize the collections. Large materials or those that are particularly fragile go under the Phase One Camera. The Zeutschel 14000 A2 scanner is best for those items that are smaller and flat, like manuscript collections or typescripts. We also have a new SAMMA Solo migration system for digitizing our rare and aging videotape.

When asked to describe one of his favorite projects he said:

“The most interesting collection I have worked with so far are the Ethiopic manuscripts. They are very old and fragile and I cannot read the text, so I feel like an archeologist when I am handling them. Photographing the pages is tricky because they often do not lay flat, which causes focus issues, and, because I cannot read the text, it is possible to inadvertently miss a page or photograph the same page twice if I am not careful. It is exciting to work with such rare material and I look forward to seeing the project in digital format after completion.”

Images from Ethiopic Manuscript #35

Celebrating 10 Years of Preservation: 10 years, 10 People

This year marks the Preservation Department’s tenth year serving the Duke University Libraries. We are planning several events to mark the occasion which will include exhibits, an open house, and interviews with staff members.

We will start our staff interviews with our longest-serving team member Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer for the libraries. Winston came to Duke from NC State a decade ago and was tasked with starting the Preservation Department. You can also find this and other videos at our Duke University Libraries You Tube channel.


We would love to hear from you if you have favorite Preservation, Conservation or DPC story to share, or would just like to give us a shout out and let us know how we are doing. Contact me and I’ll compile them for a blog post later.