Managing a Digitizing Project

Ann Toyota Rabinko

Introduction

The University of Hawaii Libraries are a repository for the 2,000 reel microfilm collection representing the archives of the government of the former U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Micronesia). In a joint program carried out by the Trust Territory and University of Hawaii Libraries, government records were filmed and a computerized index was created. After completion of the project, copies of the microfilm and index were deposited with the governments of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, U.S. National Archives and University of Hawaii (UH). In addition, UH received audiovisual materials and the photograph collection created from items held by many departments of the former Trust Territory Government.

In Fall 1991, the University of Hawaii Libraries began a project to digitize photographs from the Trust Territory Archives which consists of over 40,000 photographs and approximately 4,000 slides. The project was funded through a HEA Title II-C federal grant, under the category "Strengthening Library Resources." The two-year budget included $87,738 for personnel, $29,224 for student assistants, $52,500 for microcomputers, scanning, networking and optical storage equipment, and $18,526 for photographic equipment and supplies, and $7,500 for general supplies and publication of an informational brochure.

Staff

All project staff positions were funded by the UH Libraries with the exception of the project manager. In addition, since the Pacific Curator would be spending half time on this project, a half-time librarian was hired to partially fulfill her reference and acquisition duties.

Dr. Karen M. Peaock, project director and the Pacific Curator for the UH Libraries, is a Micronesian specialist whose dissertation in Pacific History dealt with education in the Trust Territory. Peacock has been responsible for selection of photos to be digitized. Because of the nature of the files, selection is crucial. The Curator is able to find items of historical, cultural or political importance and write descriptions of each to enhance and deepen the existing broad records. In this work Peacock's knowledge of the region's history and her first hand acquaintance with many of the individuals shown in the photos has eased the task of identification and description.

Project Manager Ann Toyota Rabinko handles all technical aspects of the program. Ms. Rabinko began work in mid-January 1992, after the initial computer equipment had been acquired and installed. The scanning workstation used in the project consists of a 386/33 with 8MB of RAM, a standard VGA color monitor, and a 200 MB hard drive. The scanner is a flatbed UMAX brand (similar to a Microtek 300G). The scanning software is Picture Publisher Plus, running under Windows. The printer is an Acer IIIG laser printer, capable of producing printouts with better resolution and gray-scale than the standard laser jet type printer. The scanning workstation was also linked to the library's on-line UHCARL public access catalog. The PC-based software developed by CARL systems programmers ("CARLterm") is the software interface used to link the digitized images and the MARC cataloging text.

Student Assistants

Two student assistants were hired in May 1992 and were trained as digital scanners. They learned techniques to handle the photographs correctly and to scan and enhance the photographs to best match the original. Later they were trained to re-house the photographs in mylar sleeves and acid-free folders, often working with difficult photographs damaged from tape, rusted staples or mold. An inventory of the collection was also taken at this time carefully matching negatives and contact sheets. Requests were routed to the library staff photographer to produce contact sheets, duplicate negatives and prints as needed to complete each file in the collection.

During the summer of 1992, the student assistants were trained to update the bibliographic entries using the UHCARL maintenance module; adding the curator's captions, the key that linked the barcode with the digital image and new inventory information. During this period, the two students worked a total of 40-80 hours per week.

By the fall, the two student assistants were fully competent in all aspects of the project, and two more student assistants were hired. One was a photography major who was also working on this project as a photographic lab assistant making duplicate negatives and prints. Her experience in the photography lab assisted her in the operation of digital scanning equipment. The other student, an Information and Computer Systems major, scanned photographs but also performed system backups as the project grew.

By this time, a second scanning workstation had been added which was identical to the first. With four students alternately scanning on two scanning stations capacity limitations were reached quit frequently, thus digital images needed to be backed up and removed from the hard drives often. Dual back up systems were used - tape backup and 3-1/2" high density disks. Although there were four students compared to two in the summer, the total hours worked remained about the same.

In the Spring of 1993, five student assistants continue to work on the project. Each continued to scan, but each has also learned a specialized skill integral to the smooth running of the project. For example, one performed most tape backups, one the disk backups, one did all the tedious re-housing and labeling, another was proficient at updating the bibliographic records, and one kept detailed records of the movement of work to and from the photography department.

This summer, other aspects of the project will be added as the photo digitizing continues. A Microtek Scan Maker 1850 with Aldus PhotoStyler running in Windows will be used in scanning the 35mm slides. The original project did not specify slide scanning and is not supported by CARL, so this is still in the experimental stage. A $20,000 Minter ultra-sonic welder for polyester encapsulating will be used to re-house photographs with type-written captions and other non-photographic material that is part of the collection. Since a file server has been recently installed, the task of moving digital images from backup tape to the network will begin. Three student assistants will work a total of approximately 90-100 hours per week.

Network Present and Future

Currently file access is provided by a file server running Novel Netware 3.11 in conjunction with a WORM Jukebox system. The Library has been successful in displaying digitized images on a workstation via this method.

In the future, all of the digitizing will be networked by having three public display workstations in Hamilton Library.

Project Statistics

To date, over 6,000 photographs have been scanned as digital images and linked to bibliographic records. Over 40,000 images

have been inventoried and re-housed (many of these are contact sheets). Roughly 1,500 bibliographic records have been updated and enhanced.

Conclusion

Digitizing as a form of preserving archival materials has been of recent interest in libraries and archives everywhere. Inquiries from other libraries and institutions about this project have increased tremendously in the past few months. Often I am asked about budget, equipment, networking and storage capabilities. Since the inception of this project just a few years ago, prices for the type of scanning equipment this project consists of have plummeted, while new and perhaps even more optimal technologies have taken its place. Because this type of undertaking is on the cutting edge of what libraries can offer, the scope of any new digitizing project must be carefully thought out. Hardware and software are only part of the general outline and are perhaps the easiest to ascertain. The time and effort in training, managing and developing staff and on-going demands must also be considered.


Ann Toyota Rabinko is an Educational Specialist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu, Hamilton Library Email: annr@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.edu or Bitnet: annr@uhunix.bitnet Mailing address: University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hamilton Library, 2550 The Mall, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822 USA.