Category Archives: Digital Production Center

The Internet Archive Arrives at Duke

It happened this week. The library has been contributing content to the Internet Archive through the Scribe Project at UNC as we mentioned in a previous post. On Tuesday we got our very own Scribe. We were giddy with excitement, until it wouldn’t fit in the door.

How many librarians does it take to get a 36″ piece of equipment through a 35″ door? Our head of Shipping and Receiving to the rescue! Thanks to Charles we got the door off its hinges and the Scribe into the Digital Production Center. Hoorah!

Stacy, Emily, Robert and Abigail from the Internet Archive went to work getting the system up and running. Soon it will be humming along, creating digital content at the estimated rate of up to 3,000 items per year. We will be focusing on materials from the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collection Library. With luck (and technical skill) the first books should be under the camera by the end of the day.

Update: Read more on the Scribe at the Devil’s Tale, the blog of the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collection Library.

The Scribe Project

Starting in summer 2008, Duke Libraries Digital Collections Program has partnered with the Carolina Digital Library and Archives at UNC-Chapel Hill to pilot test their Internet Archive Scribe scanning station. Since then, we’ve digitized nearly 300 titles on the UNC-Chapel Hill Scribe, including Duke’s yearbook The Chanticleer from 1912-1995, Utopian literature, Victorian women’s literature, advertising publications, and other materials. All are freely available on the Internet Archive page for Duke University Libraries.

Conservation is helping with this project by inspecting items before they are sent out for imaging. We preview those books that seem particularly fragile to determine if they can be scanned safely. If the paper is too brittle or if the binding is too damaged we may not let it go. Saying “no” is fairly rare, however, as part of our mission is to make the collections accessible.

Once the books come back from the Scribe, we construct custom four-flap boxes (aka “tuxedo” boxes) for the items we flagged earlier. It just so happens that today is Boxing Day, so the books from this last shipment are in the lab getting fitted for their tuxedos.

Jill Katte, Coordinator, Digital Collections Program, contributed to this post.

What’s in the Digital Production Center?


Yesterday we started digitizing our collection of Ethiopic scrolls. Last year these were sent to Conservation for rehousing. They had been rolled up tight and were difficult if not impossible to use. Conservation created large cores out of buffered corrugated board wrapped in buffered paper (photo left). The larger cores will help relax the tightly wound scrolls which should make them easier to use.

Now they are in the Digital Production Center (DPC) to be imaged. DPC is working closely with Conservation as these are pretty tricky to handle and to photograph. The scrolls are made of either vellum or leather which stretches and gets distorted when stored under less than ideal conditions (that would be prior to them coming to RBMSCL of course). That is a nice way of saying these things are not at all flat nor easy to photograph.

First, we had to create a mechanism to hold the scrolls in place under the camera while at the same time allowing us to unwind them from start to finish (photo left). We are using two corrugated cores, Ethafoam strips and magnets to hold everything in place. Since the scrolls are too long and distorted to image unrolled in one shot, we have to photograph a few inches at a time.

The process goes like this: the conservator unrolls about eight inches of scroll, the camera operator takes an image and makes sure the image is in focus or as close to it as a very wavy piece of vellum can be. If the image is a little blurry, he adjusts the camera and shoots another photograph. If that image passes quality control, the conservator unrolls another section and the process continues until the scroll is imaged from top to bottom. We can take between 8 and 15 images per scroll depending on the length and condition of the vellum.

Our first day went well and we learned a lot. It can be a slow, painstaking process because of the condition of the materials, luckily we know a little something about working efficiently under these conditions since we do it every day. We love challenging projects like this one because we get to work collaboratively, handle amazing materials and really put our skills to the test.

There are a few more images on our Flickr page as well as our FaceBook page if you are interested in seeing more of the scrolls.

Christmas Comes Early to the Digital Production Center

Remember when you were a kid counting the days to Christmas and the closer Christmas got the longer the days seemed to be? When Christmas finally showed up I was just like most other kids on Christmas morning…up at 5 a.m. waiting for my parents to wake up so I could open the presents Santa had left. I didn’t realize at the time that Santa was exhausted and had just gone to bed a few hours before I woke up. I must learn to be patient my mother would say.

Well, that patience has paid off and Christmas arrived a little early this year in the Digital Production Center. In November, after a month of testing, the Library purchased a Phase One camera system. This camera is built for speed and achieves a similar quality to the camera it replaced. Then, in early December we purchased a Zeutschel 14000 A2 camera system which is also built for speed, replacing the slower flatbed scanners. The space age look of this camera system reminds me of a Transformer from my childhood days. And to top it all off we have recently purchased a SAMMA Solo video digitization unit. This unit allows us to digitized analog video, which is something we were not able to do in the past.

It’s like Christmas morning in the Digital Production Center putting everything together and trying to figure out how everything works. While we are experiencing some growing pains we are excited with the challenge of mastering the new equipment. We have been focusing on developing new workflows to accommodate a much faster production rate and adjusting to new software that automates some of the process.

With two new full time staff members we will be able to use the new equipment to it’s fullest potential. With all that is new in the Digital Production Center we will be much more efficient and able to focus on the Libraries Strategic Plan to provide more digital content.

Thanks Santa!

Written by Mike Adamo, Digital Production Center

Welcome to the Team

We have two new members of the Digital Production Center starting work today. Oscar Arias has been with Duke Libraries for a long time. Lately he has been working for the Center for Instructional Technology as an Instructional Technology Lab Coordinator. In that capacity he helped students and faculty with lab resources, conducted workshops, and provided project assistance to language instructors.

Alex Marsh is new to Duke University Libraries. He brings a lot of experience in high-end digital imaging, photographic archiving, web content production and A/V digitization.

Both Oscar and Alex are Digitization Specialists in the DPC. Their primary responsibility will be producing digital surrogates of books, manuscripts and a/v materials from our collections. With Mike Adamo and Rita Johnston, we now have four staff (and many students assistants) in the DPC working diligently to safely reformat our rare and unique collections.