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Conservation for Digitisation
 

Conservation for Digitisation

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Presented at our Digitisation Doctor workshop on 15 April 2013.

Presented at our Digitisation Doctor workshop on 15 April 2013.

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  • Who we are: Matthew Brack, DPM and giving this talk with Gillian Boal, Head of ConservationWe’re doing this together because with a digi project you need to handle your physical collection in new ways, so understanding conservation is very much the business of the project manager as much as it is the responsibility of a conservation department… Indeed, many of you identified conservation as a primary concern in your projects…I’m going to start this talk and one thing that gives me confidence in discussing this issue is that I have a degree in conservation and several years experience working in libraries, museums and archives, including digi projects – I’ve since had additional training in the management of digital assets…Some people have conservation departments, others don’t…
  • When you do digi you’ll come across a couple types of people:Those with an understanding of digital collections and computer systems, and those who understand physical objects and collections management. It’s very important that you strive for an appreciation of both of the digital and the physical and how they interact in order to execute a good digi project.So all of THIS (1) nice stuff is inevitably going to become THIS (2) for the purposes of a digi project…
  • Digi is full of variables (collections, equipment, personnel, on-site/off-site etc.), and for conservation, like every other part of the workflow we’re talking about today, there is no one out there who can tell you exactly what to do…I can guarantee that every project will be different and small projects don’t equate to simple projects. There are no simple projects and project size is simply an indication of project duration and never ease of execution – they all require a great deal of care and consideration…What we can do is tell you about guidelines, about standards…
  • Traditionally in conservation you have different disciplines such as paper, paintings, objects conservation and so on. But conservation for digitisation may be a new one, given all the different approaches it involves which we’ll now begin to discuss… It’s very different to the traditional ‘bench’ conservation for a number of reasons:Part of a project workflow: This is already the case for most conservation departments, particularly when it comes to exhibition preparation, but in my experience it’s generally not thought of in terms of a project workflow…Generally an antipathy towards business management processes in the culture sector, probably because it’s associated with business and profit, but when it comes to doing digitisation, even a basic understanding of project management will be your best friend…So what’s different?Volume of materials go up…Amount of time to spend on them is down, because this will be in addition to everything else you do already…Number of stakeholders increases… almost all of them won’t know about conservation…Because of the IT infrastructure, the new roles or personnel, the involvement of more senior members of an organisation in championing such projects and the enhanced access to collections, there are more people who will want to know what’s going on…Probably one of the biggest areas of concern for conservation in this regard is the extension of responsibility for care of collections to untrained individuals (the imaging technicians) or, if your organisation doesn’t have a trained conservator, taking on conservation responsibilities without in-house guidance…
  • So what else is different?1. Volume of materials go up…2. Generally, amount of time to spend on them is down3. Number of stakeholders increases… many of them may not have any experience of conservationBecause of the IT infrastructure, the new roles or personnel, the involvement of more senior members of an organisation in championing such projects and the enhanced access to collections, there are more people who will want to know what’s going on…Probably one of the biggest areas of concern for conservation in this regard is the extensionof responsibility for care of collections to individuals who initiallylack training…
  • Unless the person taking the images is a trained conservator, you will need to extend responsibility forconservation tasks to those without any training…They will spend more time with the objects than you will… they’ll see things that you won’t…There may be no one with any conservation training at all – that’s okay!The truth is, you don’t need a skilled conservation resource – you don’t need to be doing repairs or other technical activities, but rather preventive measures…How? Establish your guidelines ahead of time – we’re actually producing a document in the near future that reflects our practice which we’ll make available – think about conservation concerns but consider them within the context of the project… Gillian will talk more about this shortly…When it comes to contractors, or inexperienced staff, let them know up front how important good handling is… most damage to objects is caused by handling, and is your priority, chemical processes associated with light, humidity etc. are less of a concern…We’ve had a lot of success by simply doing this and then taking a light touch, treating them as professionals – we check in to see how they’re getting on but we encourage them to take responsibility themselves and one way we’ve empowered them to do this is to actually lend them tools to perform basic tasks such as unfolding pages to put them in a conservation frame of mind and take some pressure off of the conservation department. Generally imaging technicians are interested in what they’re digitising, so exploit that to encourage their respect for what they’re handling.
  • I mentioned that I feel digi conservation to be a slightly different prospect to traditional conservation and would hazard to say that some of the traditional approaches to assessing risk for objects can be counterproductive for digitisation – if you followed them strictly you would get bogged down very quickly…For example: in the UK Institute of Conservation Professional Guidelines – Article 5: The Conservator-Restorer shall respect the aesthetic, historic and spiritual significance and the physical integrity of the cultural heritage entrusted to her/his care.Article 7: The Conservator-Restorer must work to the highest standards regardless of any opinion of the market value of the cultural heritage. Although circumstances may limit the extent of a Conservator-Restorer's action, respect for the Code should not be compromised. These are very sensible precautions within a certain context, but you will need to make value judgments when it comes to a digi project, and in many cases you will completely change the object you’re digitising…So I would encourage another measure to help, more along the lines of… DPC chart…
  • Conservation staff have been contributingto digital projects since 2009 we are a small but necessary part of the bigger project to digitize all of the WellcomeLibrary holdings. – that Christy has mentioned. Digital Preparation is mostly stabilization and includes: the removal of staples, sleeving of material that is vulnerable and brittle, humidification, flattening, repair and sometimes disbinding. We have worked with both our digital preparators and our photographic staff to help facilitate careful handling of items during the digitization process.
  • An example of an archive letter that needs stabilization. Levels 1 and 2 preparation are done by Digital Preparators or Imaging Technicians depending on the quantity of preparation needed. Level 3 is done in the conservation studio.Levels 1 & 2 include mechanical manipulation of the item like removal of staples, turning back folded material, boning with a teflon folder. There is no use of water, paste or solvents as these need conservation skills. These levels were established during the Phase 1 pilot project.
  • A Collections Care approach needs to know what will happen to the original after digitisation.Here at the Wellcome we digitize and return items to the stores on site or to Deepstore, our off site storage – we are keeping physical items as the technology is still not proven long term.Occasionally we won’t retain the original. For example we have numerous copies of our collection catalogues and after digitizing we will only retain one hard copySometimes we might undo original library bindings that are falling apart. Smaller groups of material can be easier to retrieve, use and digitize when separated.The fact that a bookbinding might have fallen apart can be a good thing and make it easier to film. The broken binding can allow the digitizing process easier access to the gutter
  • DigitalPreparation is mostly about stabilization. Loss from manipulation is sometimes unavoidable. There needs to be put in place a practice to keep all the parts, to have no loss of information. This can be done by placing these pieces in a mylar ‘L’ sleeve or envelope and documenting their original whereabouts.During Phase 1 we had digital preparators keep all loose parts together so that they can be reattached after digitizing and have them put a red dot on the archival boxes so that conservation can repair after digitizing.
  • Cataloguing and collections care – you need the former to effectively do the latter - Cannot do a general condition survey without a descriptive framework.Sufficient cataloguing needs to be established before surveying and digitizing.In archives there are several groups of material housed together – brittle paper, photographs, books, documents and lettersAn initial random visual inspection survey can highlight issues for image technicians or digital preparators. For example - If document seals are identified during a survey these can be highlighted so that the digital Technicians can know to minimize pressure when digitizing these documents.When working in partnership with other institutions there is a dual responsibility of care.When loaning items there has to be some acceptance of some wear and tear from digital handling during the capture of an item. But it is also important to insist on safe handling and to establish ahead the digital capture techniques. The loan of materials has to be fully documented. But how much documentation is needed?One of our partners in the digitization of the medical Officer of Health records is the London Metropolitan Archives. They provided an item by item condition survey and included a form with each report that they sent to us. It was a tick box survey that described the condition of the item. It would have taken too much time to fill out a more standard detailed report.
  • In the next few slides I am going to show you a couple of case studies –These Eugenics Newspaper Scrapbooks come from the Galton InstituteWe have 14 and they are part of the Genetics project. They are in varying degrees of brittleness and constant use has caused losses at the folds of the foldouts, which are often broken in two. The adhered newspaper cuttings overlap each other and so need to be folded back to be fully digitized.
  • Photographic staff are very inventive. Richard will talk about the variety of equipment that they use. Here we have the guardian system, called ‘Rosebud’ with Tom Cox holding the overlaid newspaper clipping using a Plastazote stick which is flexible and bendable. He is carefully removing the stick.
  • You can see that there is no creasingAbove each cutting is its source –e.g. Derbyshire Advertiser – 22.6.35These volumes have been heavily used in the past. The inability to read all of the cuttings would result in increasing the need to refer to the physical item which defeats the purpose as it would not help to lessen their use. Digitizing can minimize use as the reader request can be targetted rather than them needing to look at each volume.
  • These are from the Arabic manuscript digital project which Richard Everett will also talk more about. When digitizing large formats you need extra space to work and Technicians need to have safe ways to support these extended items. Particularly when the foldout is in a book. Practitioners need to have knowledge of safe handling practice of these awkward materials – opening out and folding back again into their original folds.
  • 30 cm folded becomes 130 cm laid out. Top right hand slide is the item unfolded.As you can see from the folds this needs to be humidified to avoid creases that would be made by the digital process.This is an example of Level 3 preparation. The bottom image is the result of humidification and flattening carried out in the conservation studio, before digitizing.
  • One of our small mini projects is to digitize these bound journals, around 300 volumes, of the Chemist and Druggist publications. 1890-2010. These 100 years span a variety of different binding styles that pose a range of problems for the digital equipment The widest volume is 16mm and without extra manipulation will not open enough into the gutter to lessen the curve so that a digital image can be taken without distortion. We met with the Imaging technicians at the beginning of the project and they devised methods to throw up the spine of these books safely during digitizing which has minimized the need for preparation for digitizing.
  • Ironically older material can be easier to digitize because the chemistry of the materials is sound but 20th and 21st century material can be brittle which makes it more difficult to handle without damage. Projects can seem simple.In this group of the Chemist and Druggist there are modern cloth case bindings which should be straightforward to digitize.But on inspection the binding style is oversewn, this was a common practice for journal bindings. Oversewing restricts the opening and digital access to the print in the gutter and cannot be overcome technically. These might be an example of the need for disbinding preparation and boxing after digitizing.
  • I will end on this slide as I have mostly been talking about library materials, books and paper.David Attenborough would be interested in this Narwhal Tusk, from one of hisfavourite animals.I want to reiterate what Matt and I have been saying, Digitizing is a growing field of practice and it needs dialogue between both digital photography and conservation with curatorial input. To SUM UPAll practitioners need to work together to establish guidelines of all aspects of the digital practice. Another important part is to arrange handling training for all of those involved and to understand how to best ensure the best care for our physical collections during the process.

Conservation for Digitisation Conservation for Digitisation Presentation Transcript

  • Conservation for DigitisationGillian BoalHead of Conservationand Collections CareMatthew BrackDigitisation Project ManagerDigitisation Doctor workshop, 15 April 2013
  • The nature of digitisationConservation for Digitisation
  • Where physical and digital collections meetConservation for DigitisationWhen you do digi you tend to come across a coupletypes of people:1. Those with an understanding of digital collections andtheir corresponding management systems.2. Those who understand physical objects andcollections management.It’s very important that you strive for an appreciation ofboth digital and physical collections and understandhow they interact in order to execute a good digi project.
  • The nature of digitisationConservation for Digitisation
  • Digitisation = variablesConservation for Digitisation• With conservation, like every other part of thedigi workflow, there is no one way of doingthings.• Every project will be different and smallprojects don’t equate to simple projects.• There are no simple projects and project sizeis simply an indication of project duration andnever ease of execution.
  • ‘Bench’ vs. ‘Digi’ conservationConservation isone part of aprojectworkflow….Conservation for DigitisationBOOKS INSTACKSINSCOPENOTESTAY ONSHELFONLINECAT?PRINTCAT?NOTE GENE-RATESHELFLISTDUPLI-CATECHECKSINGLESHELFLISTSSORTBYSIZECHECKOUTCHECKOUTCONASS-ESSUPDATESHELFLISTRETURN TOSHELFDIGI-TISECONDI-TION?REPAIRBOXTOCATALO-GUE?CATA-LOGUE1.22STORE215B STACKS 1.22 STORAGE CONSERVATION CATALOGUINGNONOYESYESLARGERNO WAYNOT OKOKFAIRPOORYES1.22STORENO1.22STORESTART1a1b1c1d234561178910BOOKS INSTACKSINSCOPENOTESTAY ONSHELFONLINECAT?PRINTCAT?NOTE GENE-RATESHELFLISTDUPLI-CATECHECKSINGLESHELFLISTSSORTBYSIZECHECKOUTCHECKOUTCONASS-ESSUPDATESHELFLISTRETURN TOSHELFDIGI-TISECONDI-TION?REPAIRBOXTOCATALO-GUE?CATA-LOGUE1.22STORE215B STACKS 1.22 STORAGE CONSERVATION CATALOGUINGNONOYESYESLARGERNO WAYNOT OKOKFAIRPOORYES1.22STORENO1.22STORESTART1a1b1c1d234561178910
  • ‘Bench’ vs. ‘Digi’ conservationConservation for DigitisationTraditionally, conservation has had different disciplines:paper, paintings, objects and so on. Digi conservation maybe a new one, with its many differing approaches.As part of a project workflow, even a basic understanding ofproject management will be your best friend. Additionally:1. Volume of materials goes up.2. Amount of time to spend on them goes down.3. Number of stakeholders increases, many of whom won’tknow about conservation.
  • Conservation for DigitisationCATALOGUERETRIEVALCONSERVATION FINAL PREPCAPTURESYSTEMS
  • Wider responsibility for collections care• Responsibility will need to be extended to thosewithout conservation training• Digital Preparators and Imaging Technicians willspend more time with objects than anyone else• You don’t need a skilled conservation resource• Establish sensible guidelines• Your main concern is handlingWellcome Digital Library Programme
  • Risk assessmentConservation for Digitisation• Some of the traditional conservation approaches to assessing risk forobjects can be counterproductive for digitisation – following them strictlywill stall your project.• A good starting point is a universal risk assessment framework, simplequestions that quickly give you a grasp of risk to your objects within a digiproject.• Our bottom line: no loss of information from the object.Example questions (from Digital Preservation Coalition):Identify a risk ... What is it’s likelihood?What is it’s impact? Risk Score: L x IHow frequently does the risk occur? How often do we need to check?Who owns the risk? How will we respond to the risk?How does our response change likelihood and impact?
  • Conservation Digital PreparationConservation for Digitisation
  • Digi preparation at Wellcome LibraryConservation for Digitisation• Conservation staff have been contributing to digital projects since 2009.• Digital preparation is mostly stabilisation and includes: the removal ofstaples, sleeving of material that is vulnerable and brittle, humidification,flattening, repair and sometimes disbinding.• We have worked with both our Digital Preparators and our photographicstaff to help facilitate careful handling of items during the digitisationprocess.• Loss from manipulation is sometimes unavoidable. All components areretained so as to have no loss of information. This can be done by placingthese pieces in mylar ‘L’ sleeves or envelopes and documenting theiroriginal location. Digital Preparators keep all loose parts together so thatthey can be reattached after digitisation and flagged so that conservationcan repair after digitisation.
  • Conservation for DigitisationExample of an archive letter that needs stabilisation, carried out by DigitalPreparators or Imaging Technicians
  • Question: What is going to happen to theoriginal physical item?Conservation for Digitisation• A Collections Care approach needs to know what will happen to the originalafter digitisation.• Here at the Wellcome we digitise and return items to the stores on-site or to off-site storage – we are keeping physical items as the technology is still not provenlong term.• Occasionally we won’t retain the original: we have numerous copies of ourcollection catalogues and after digitising we will only retain one hard copy.• Sometimes we might undo original library bindings that are falling apart. Smallergroups of material can be easier to retrieve, use and digitise when separated.• The fact that a bookbinding might have fallen apart can be a good thing andmake it easier to image. The broken binding can allow the imaging processeasier access to the gutter
  • Wellcome Digital Library Programme
  • Condition Surveys• Are materials catalogued or uncatalogued? You can’t do a generalcondition survey without a descriptive framework. Materials must becatalogued before digitisation.• In archives there are several groups of material housed together – brittlepaper, photographs, books, documents and letters. An initial random visualinspection survey can highlight issues for Image Technicians or DigitalPreparators.• When working in partnership with other institutions there is a dualresponsibility of care. When loaning items there has to be some acceptanceof wear and tear from handling during image capture of an item.• The loan of materials has to be fully documented, usually as a tick boxsurvey that describes the condition of the item, as it takes too much time tofill out a more standard detailed report.Conservation for Digitisation
  • Case StudyEugenics Scrapbooks – overlaid newspaper cuttingsConservation for Digitisation
  • The adhered newspaper cuttings overlap each otherand so need to be folded back to be fully digitised.They are held using a flexible Plastazote stick.
  • Conservation for DigitisationUsing this technique there is no creasingof the newspaper.
  • Case StudyLarge format worksConservation for Digitisation
  • Conservation for DigitisationIn this example 30 cm folded becomes 130 cm laid out.Technicians need to have safe ways to support these extended items, opening out andfolding back again into their original folds.
  • Case StudyModern journalsConservation for DigitisationModern cloth case bindingsought to be straightforward todigitise. But on inspection thebinding style is oversewn, acommon practice for journalbindings that restricts theopening and image access tothe print in the gutter.These might be an example ofthe need for disbindingpreparation and boxing afterdigitising.
  • Conservation for DigitisationIronically older material is often easier to digitise because the chemistry of thematerials is sound – 19th and 20th century material can be brittle which makes it moredifficult to handle without damage.
  • Case Study3D objectsConservation for DigitisationAll practitioners need towork together to establishguidelines of all aspects ofthe digital practice.Arrange handling trainingfor all of those involvedand understand how toensure the best care forphysical collections duringthe process.