21 Nov 2023

Bringing Collections to a Wider Audience - Digitisation @MU Library

This blog post by Bridie O'Neill, Edel King and Laura Gallagher from Maynooth University was highly commended in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2023.
The Digital Publishing and Data Services (DPDS) department in Maynooth University (MU) Library purchased a new Zeutschel scanner last year. After training on the scanner and its accompanying software, Omniscan, we paid a visit to the National Library of Ireland to view their scanning suite. We have since received some reprographic requests from universities. In this blog, we will detail how we fulfilled these requests using the scanner as well as our DSLR camera.
Digitising using the DSLR camera
We received a request to digitise the Bloomfield maps of the Loughton & Redwood Estate by MU's Arts and Humanities Institute. The maps consisted of 34 maps and ledgers dating 1836-1840. The maps were oversized so we chose the digital camera as the best medium to digitise the maps.

Image from the Bloomfield collection
We ran tests using different exposure settings to gain the depth of field required for the maps. We placed the maps on the floor supported by backboards and the copy stand was adjusted to allow the maps to be photographed.
The best exposure for the maps could be gained from turning off the overhead fluorescent lights and engaging the flash function on the camera with even tungsten lighting. We documented all our findings for future use. 
The photographs were captured and saved as TIFF format. The files were then converted into JPEG format to assist data transferring and ease of editing.

Using the camera and copy stand
Digitising using the scanner
We received a reprographic request from an academic in Durham University for the digitisation of a 1595 book called Essais de Michel de Montaigne. This was the first request we received where we could properly utilise the scanner.

Image from Essais de Michel de Montaigne
The scanner has some excellent features. One of these is Interleaving. Interleaving allows you to scan one half of the book entirely, for example solely the right-hand pages. After that, with Interleaving mode on, you can scan the left-hand pages. Interleaving puts each scan in its correct place automatically so that page 3 is followed by page 4 etc.
We found this feature useful when scanning the Montaigne book. It allowed us to set the book on the scanner with the relevant supports, scan one half of it and then set up the other half.

Interleaving equipment
The requestor wanted a full view of the book including the spine and leaves. These areas were not possible to capture using the scanner, so we took the images using our camera and then worked on them using Photoshop.

Spine of Montaigne
We created a proper file structure. Images are scanned as TIFFs, then copied into another chosen format. For testing purposes, we used one folder for all formats. As we would only be sending one version to the requestor, we separated formats for each project so that everything was more easily accessible.

Using the scanning software
Teams has proven to be a useful collaborative tool. Creating a channel or folder and either uploading or copying the files to that location means that the files are available for the team to work on no matter where they are. It also provided us with a useful location to store backups.
We purchased some book supports for digitising which are useful to us with regard to handling of the sometimes fragile material.

Book supports that we purchased
We are currently working on a curatorial request to digitise the Wardell Archive, housed in our Special Collections and Archives department. This collection comprises the personal papers of the Wardell family, which are mainly letters and are handwritten front and back. This project has over 600 items.

Image from the Wardell collection
As the collection is so vast, a good naming convention is vitally important so that once all the letters are digitised and converted from TIFFs to JPEG, they are easily identifiable and easy to ingest into our Digital Library. For example, Item 1 in Wardell, a handwritten letter with writing front and back was named PP2- 1-001 (front) and PP2-1-002 (back) to clearly identity that the item generated 2 scans. We used a naming feature set up with the OmniScan software which allows the user to name each scan they digitise on a project.
We use colour cards beside each item and a grey back board underneath. This allows for the requestor to see the full depth of the paper and the ink used in writing.
The feedback we received on the digitisation of our projects to date has been extremely positive. Digitising allows academics and researchers to see items without having to access the original item. We are looking forward to working with both the camera and scanner on future reprographic projects.


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