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HOW CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE BENEFITING FROM DIGITIZATION OF PHOTO ARCHIVES

HOW CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS ARE BENEFITING FROM DIGITIZATION OF PHOTO ARCHIVES

“Today digital technology is pervasive. It is mandatory that museums, libraries, and archives join with educational institutions in embracing it.”

  • Wayne Clough, Author, Best of Both Worlds

Museums and cultural institutions are leaving no stone unturned to digitize history. Archiving photos form an integral part of documenting history. Continuing with our previous post on how cultural institutions are leveraging photo archiving, in this post, we will detail why museums and cultural institutions should leverage photo archiving.

Easy Sharing and Distribution

Unlike physical copies, scanned photos can be easily shared across multiple locations with multiple users. Easier to track electronically, it is also cost effective for researchers and curators as it eliminates the need for physical reproduction and mailing.

Prepare for Disasters

Museums and cultural institutions are not free from the risk of losing valuable content. Natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, heavy rains, or hurricanes and tsunamis have destroyed museums and libraries over the centuries, resulting in the loss of valuable content. Digitization will curb the risk of loss of valuable photographs.

Save Cost and Clutter

Maintaining physical copies of photo prints requires physical storage space and involves cost. Digitizing photos can save institutions cost that is involved in keeping physical copies and make it easier to share and reproduce.

Source of Revenue

Owners of photos of rare events and occurrences can generate a revenue stream in terms of royalty or licensing fee. Different types of models can be adopted like selling prints through your own website, third-party portals, exhibiting in galleries etc.

Tip for Successful Photo Digitization – Prioritizing Which Items to Digitize

Depending on the priority and goals, every institution shortlists the photos that need to be digitized.  Some questions that organizations need to ask before selecting the images for digitization are:

  1. Are the records unique?
  2. Do the photos appeal visually?
  3. Who will be the prospective consumer of the digitized images?
  4. Does the demand justify the cost that will be incurred to digitize the photos?
  5. Will digitization add any value to the picture?
  6. How will the institution control access to the digitized images? Will, there be any restriction or can it be accessed openly?
  7. Does the institution have the legal right to scan?
  8. What is the long-term preservation strategy of the photos being digitized?
  9. What is the metadata that will be required?

Once institutions have selected items that need to be digitized, here are some critical considerations while scanning photos.

  1. Once you have a flatbed scanner ready, set the scanner, photoshop, and the printer to the same color space – CMYK or RGB.
  2. To capture many shades of gray (which is essential especially for black and white photos), choose the right DPI. Depending on the size of the picture, DPI should be around 3000 – 4000 pixels along the length of the image.
  3. Choose the format of preservation carefully. For Masterfile, the recommended format is TIFF.
  4. Save a JPEG copy for easy distribution among researchers.
  5. To avoid damage and file loss, keep the Master copy separate from the distributed copy.

Photo/ image archivists should prioritize digitizing susceptible photos like colored photos and cellulose nitrate or films. The context of each of these photos should also be documented, and each item needs to have metatags to make them easily accessible in time of need. To know about the top six mistakes to avoid while digitizing photos, read this blog.

Six Steps For Restoring Your Old Films

Six Steps For Restoring Your Old Films

Did you know that 50% of all full-length features produced before 1950 have vanished? Fewer than 20% of features from the 1920s survive in complete form; survival rates of 1910s is <10%?[i]

While more than 90% of the world cinema produced before 1929 can no more be restored and are lost forever, the major players – from restoration agencies to film production houses – are trying to revive old classics digitally.

Film restoration is an archaeological expedition for curators. Apart from factors like dust, scratches, film grains, shrinkage, and color fade, heritage films are also at-risk due to climate conditions, lack of training in film preservation, and sometimes, unstable political conditions.

Film restoration is crucial for the preservation of films, especially those whose original elements have substantially deteriorated. The critical steps of restoring a film are as follows:

  1. Film identification: Film restoration is a costly and labor-intensive process, sometimes consuming more than 1,000 staff-hours to repair a film. Therefore, it is essential to identify the films that need to be restored.
  2. Film treatment and repair: Curators clean the films using chemicals, cleaning machines. Further, they use splicing tape, film cement, or ultrasonic splicers to repair perforations and tear on a film before using it on projectors, printers, and other sprocket-driven film equipment.
  3. Digitization/ Scanning: Curators scan each frame into a digital file before proceeding with restoration. The back-up copy replicates the video and audio content of the film and ensures the copy can be used in the future to create subsequent viewing copies.
  4. Film comparison: Before proceeding with the restoration, curators compare all the known surviving source materials to ensure the chosen version is the best available version for restoration.
  5. Digital restoration: A widely used restoration format today, the films are restored using digital or hybrid techniques, and the output can be in film or digital form. Digital restoration also incorporates the following:
    • Comparing each frame to its adjacent frames
    • Fixing the frame alignment
    • Restore areas blocked by dirt and dust by using parts of images in other frames
    • Restore scratches by using parts of images in different frames
    • Reducing film grain noise
    • Restoring sound
    • Correcting flickering, lighting, and color changes, even minimal, from one frame to another due to the aging of the film
  1. Digital asset management: It is essential to create a set of database records with metadata and other relevant information that allows end users to identify, locate, and retrieve a film from the archive.

 

From documentaries to fictional narratives, newsreels, industrial films, home movies, political ads, and travelogues, films are a witness of the past. By restoring these works, we can illuminate our heritage with the power and immediacy unique to film. To know more about film restoration, read:

 

[i] http://besser.tsoa.nyu.edu/howard/Talks/cineteca-mexicana.pdf
How Cultural Institutions are Leveraging Photo Archiving

How Cultural Institutions are Leveraging Photo Archiving

Museums and cultural institutions play a valuable role in preserving the rich cultural heritage of our planet.  By recording the history of different era and communities, such institutions help us understand our history, deepening our knowledge and respect for various cultures and traditions.

However, with time, the ways of accessing the history is changing. G. Wayne Clough, the author of Best of Both Worlds, says, “Today digital technology is pervasive. It is mandatory that museums, libraries, and archives join with educational institutions in embracing it.”

To keep with this trend, photo archiving has been a prime focus of many cultural institutions. Some forerunners in this space are:

Pharos

Pharos, the “International Consortium of Photo Archives” – a joint effort of 14 institutions like the Getty and the Frick, the National Gallery of Art, the Yale Center for British Art, Rome’s Bibliotheca Hertziana, and the Courtauld Institute among others will host 25 million images – 17 million artworks and 8 million supplemental material. The Consortium aims to have 7 million images online by 2020.

Primarily aimed at scholars, Pharos uploads a work’s provenance, attribution, exhibition, conservation, and bibliographic histories. The Consortium currently has more than 100,000 images and 60,000 artworks of early Christian art from the National Gallery, classical and Byzantine art and mosaics from the Frick, statuary from the Bibliotheca Hertziana, and photographs of Roman pottery among other collectibles.

Smithsonian Design Museum

Cooper Hewitt, popularly known as the Smithsonian Design Museum has embarked on an ambitious digitization project where they have digitized more than 92 percent of the 3000-year-old museum collection.

Durham Museum

The photo archive of the Durham Museum in Nebraska documents the history of Omaha in more than 1 million images from the 1860s. Dedicated to the long-term storage of photographs to preserve a part of the past, the photos document moments like Presidents on parade, streetcars, storefronts, and images from the early days of the city.

Oslo City Museum

The Oslo City Museum, with over 2 million objects, has started archiving photos to preserve the lifestyle, history, and development of the city in time. More than 100,000 photos have already been digitized in the museum’s system.

Norwegian Labour Movement Archives and Library

Four special groups are working together to organize the collection of Norwegian Labor Movement Archives and Library, which comprises of 1,500,000 items about Oslo History in general aspect and narrative about labor history.

Google

Google has a similar project – Google Art Project – which lets users’ virtually tour 17 of the world’s major institutions like Ufizzi, New York Met, and Tate among others.

Benefits of photo archiving

While the benefits of archiving history are many, here is a list of the four prominent benefits:

  1. Reachability: With photo archiving, learning about history and culture is no more only restricted to museum booklets or guided tours. With web-based virtual walk-through and videos, museums and cultural institutions can reach out to a broader audience base.
  2. Multiple revenue sources: Photo archiving has opened new revenue sources for cultural institutions. Many museums have websites selling online tickets, replicas of artifacts, historical DVDs, and 3D immersive trips to let the audience experience history from the comfort of home.
  3. Long-term preservation of cultural heritage: Physical copies of photos and artifacts are subject to wear-and-tear and natural calamities. Digitization has made preservation of history easier and more accessible.
  4. Ease of research: Photo archiving has made researching on an era or finding the right image for a project easier. For example, Pharos, the Consortium of Photo Archives has made millions of photos accessible to the artists and researchers in a click, saving time and energy.

With digitization, consumers have easy access to media and information through connected devices, making sharing more accessible and faster. Hence, more cultural institutions are trying to expand their horizon to reach out to new audiences and digitize their collection for long-term preservation.

5 Classics Films Restored for the Digital Age

5 Classics Films Restored for the Digital Age

Movies made with photosensitive films and analog cameras until the 1990s had great details, but was also susceptible to dirt, temperature changes, and rough handling. As classics and old movies fall prey to the effects of time, content producers are digitizing to restore them.

With easy access to video on demand anytime anywhere, film producers and archives are leaving no stone un-turned to make the classics available to the viewers. While the film makers are setting new aesthetic standards with high quality and clarity of 4K resolution for restoring oldies, it comes at a time when watching movies on smartphones is more popular than DVDs or Blu-rays.

However, film restoration isn’t as simple as scanning the original 35mm film to produce a new version. It involves multiple steps like manual and automatic cleaning of the film to remove dust, scratches and other signs of aging, enhancing colors, sound and editing into single segment and adding special effects if necessary.

As the efforts are underway across the world to re-master and preserve classic films, we look at Hollywood’s past to list some of the best digitally remastered classics.

  1. Casablanca
Casablanca_MG_Blog
Credit: Google Images

With the Blu-ray 4K restoration, released in May 2017 to mark the 75th anniversary of the film release, the 1942 classic Casablanca never looked better. The scan restores the most dynamic and richest image and sounds possible, making the hard work behind the restoration job evident.  The film have been earlier restored twice for its 50th and 60th anniversary.

Casablanca, the winner of three Academy Awards, is a story of a romantic triangle between Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), his wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her ex-lover Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart).

  1. North by Northwest
MG_BLOG_north_northwest
Credit: Google Images

To mark the 50th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s sleek masterwork, Warner Home Video restored ‘North by Northwest’ in 1080p from original VistaVision and made it available on Blu-ray and DVD. Each frame was painstakingly transferred into the digital domain at 8k for the restoration, revealing a depth of field and clarity that was unimaginable before, thereby heightening the thrill of the classic.

  1. Dr. No
MG_Blog_DR.No
Credit: Google Images

The 1962 adventure of James Bond – his first adventure to be precise – is given a new life (and look) by the Lowry Digital. With a fresh 4K scan and clean-up, the remastered film in Blu-ray looks amazing with bright, clear picture, and sharp resolution.

  1. Gone with the Wind 
Gone with wind_MG_Blog
Credit: Google Images

The new 8K scan of the 1939 Civil War epic based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel has cleared the dirt and age defects away from the classic. Although the image is soft at times, details shine through. According to the critics, this edition is the best the film has looked to date, and that includes the theatrical release.

  1. Sleeping Beauty 
MG_Blog_disney-sleeping-beauty
Credit: Google Images

Restored from the original 2.55:1 negative, the 50th edition of Sleeping Beauty is a beautiful rendition. The original soundtracks were converted from Berlin Symphony Orchestra to DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. Both the picture and sound quality are superb, making the edition better than the original version.

Some other classics that have been digitally restored are The Third Man, The Godfather, Star Trek Original Series Seasons 1 – 3, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio. Remastering classic movies in 4K not only preserves the cinematic heritage for the new generation but also make movies look better than the past.

Future of Linear Tape-Open (LTO)

Future of Linear Tape-Open (LTO)

In today’s scenario, so much content is being produced that handling it is the biggest challenge every company is facing. It won’t be wrong to say that every moment becomes a data for further reference from time to time. And where there is data, there is a need for its storage and preservation. The importance is one notch higher in broadcasting and media industry. There is already an ocean of heritage content to be taken care of and the volume is only increasing day by day. Innovators, over a period of time, have come up with various technologies to manage and optimize content to its best possible condition.

It all started in late 1990’s when technology providers Hewlett Packard, IBM Corporation and Quantum Corporation developed and finally introduced the first generation of Linear Tape-Open (LTO), a magnetic tape storage technology in the year 2000 which could hold 100 GB of data in a cartridge. The standard form factor of LTO technology is known by the name Ultrium which is highly scalable and adaptable on multi-platforms like MAC, Linux, and Windows.

LTO has proved revolutionary in terms of data storage with its outstanding performance, capacity, and reliability, combining the advantages of linear multi-channel, data compression, track layout and error correction.
Due to its high success outcome and market demand, regular enhancements have been done and 2017 could see the launch of its 8th generation which can hold data up to 12 TB in a cartridge of the same size. Although, between generations, there are strict compatibility rules clearly defining which drives and cartridges can be used together.

WHY HAS THE INDUSTRY TURNED TO LTO?

The word ‘Tape’ may sound old school but breakthrough enhancement features have made LTO the most suited backup storage medium. Every company needs a storage solution which is high on speed and capacity and has adequate protection levels. Content is available in various forms. LTO Ultrium, being an open format technology provides its users to source data from multiple platforms and store it in a very convenient and easily restored format.
LTO, with each version, have come up with better speed resulting in quick access and recovery. Capacity to store data has increased manifolds. Functionalities like WORM and data encryption provide adequate protection of the valuable data thus by preventing it from getting tampered.

LTO based archiving also proves cost-effective in terms of reduced energy bills and also since storage capacity is ever increasing with each new generation thereby further reducing the cost.

WHAT DOES LTO-8 OFFER?

LTO-8 was recently revealed in 2017, two years after LTO-7. It is obvious to get attracted to the new improved version but many factors go into this big decision making.If we look at the specifications, LTO-8 offers 12 TB of raw data capacity which is 50% more than what is provided by its previous version. The head channel count also goes up to 32 from 16. The compressed transfer rate has also increased from 750 MB/s to 1180 MB/s. The encryption and WORM feature remains the same.

A new feature which aces up LTO-8 is its ability to increase the cartridge capacity of LTO-7 by 50%. LTO-8 drives can also read and write to LTO-7 tapes thus by saving on the huge investments already made.2

So, before making any decision to consider the switchover, a lot of factors have to be considered in terms of budget, usage, last upgraded time and also to what extent the capabilities of new tapes can be leveraged.

To sum up, we can say that when we think of tapes as a storage and recovery solution, we are focussing on future demands of the ever-increasing volume of data which can be stored and accessed in an environment which is secured as well as cost-effective. And LTO, with its roadmap and growth capabilities, promises to be able to endure Big Data challenges with its continuous breakthroughs.

Cultural institutions preserving heritage in digitization era

Cultural institutions preserving heritage in digitization era

Culture forms the backbone of each place and its people are identified by their cultural uniqueness. Some great thinkers started preserving it over the time to keep it alive even after thousands and thousands of years.

Today, each country or community has so much heritage of such great value, it is unimaginable. There is audiovisual history, artifacts, material objects, paper preserves, books and the list of items goes on. This heritage is only adding up with each passing day. Museums, libraries, galleries, cultural institutions are full of priceless content.

When it all started off, no one must have ever thought of the challenges humankind will face to take care of them and keep them alive for generations and generations to come. But slowly and gradually, these institutions started facing issues as far as the quality of these preserves was concerned. With changing times and depleting environmental conditions, it became very difficult to upkeep with the quality of each heritage. The need to secure these valuables became such a worrisome issue and needed a permanent and a highly durable solution to it.

WORLD OF DIGITIZATION AND ITS CHALLENGES

A lot of research went into it and Digitization provided the one-stop solution to all problems these institutions were facing. It brought new life to the ever-diminishing rich cultural heritage of our very existence. But it was just a start. With the onset of digitization journey, cropped up, many challenges.

What to Digitize & How to Store

Not everything could be digitized or preserved. There were various forms in which our history existed and that too in varied conditions. Selecting a thing which was possible to revive and then deciding on how to preserve it became the first and foremost task of digitization specialists. The content had to be selective, holds significance with the motive of preservation and be in a revival condition.

Another concern for the custodians of these historical assets is storing the items once a digital copy has been created. It is a speculated decision of investing resources to store old physical items, such as obsolete audio-video material, or frail paper items or let them go after they have been archived digitally.

The Copyright Issue

Another major issue which affected many digitization projects was The Copyright Issue which had to go through a lot of clearances. In such cases, there was the high risk of content being frail or sub judice. Google Books Library Project is a well-known example for when it started digitizing books of US libraries in 2002, never had they thought what lay ahead. In 2005, members of Association of American Publishers and Authors’ Guild brought proceedings of copyright infringement against Google. It was only after a long battle that in late 2013, Google’s activities were protected as fair use.

Money Matters

Cost is another major issue. Any digitization project – audio, video, or manuscript etc. – involves a huge investment in terms of technology and highly skilled manpower. A fair amount of budget needs to be allocated which depends largely on the content, in its present analog form and how will it be converted digitally. Initially, the main purpose to digitize content was to create a repository. Further commercial use was not something high on agenda. But, over the period of time, its future viability became a major deciding factor before undertaking any project.

SOME OF THE SUCCESSFUL DIGITIZATION PROJECTS

Overcoming all hindrances and obstacles, many digitization projects were undertaken and accomplished the feat.

To name a few, The Star East Asian Library at Columbia University holds a unique collection of over 200 Chinese “paper gods” which were conserved and digitized.

Digitizing history of Australian Museum and South Australian Museum in 2010 is another example wherein digitizing workstations were built to reduce cost and increase productivity. They also enjoyed the luxury of increased budgets from time to time seeing the outcome.

In 2015, a major digitization project was undertaken by University of Michigan Biological Collections to digitize close to 50,000 natural history specimens.

Many libraries namely Library of Congress, The British Library, Australian Islamic Library, South Carolina State Library, German National Library of Medicine, National Library of Indonesia, National Library of Whales are few of the names who have successfully preserved their rich heritage. Furthermore, world-class universities also went the digital way to not only preserve their assets but also made them available for references.

THE IMPACT & ROAD AHEAD

Consistent and sustainable efforts showed positive results and slowly and gradually, all institutions started adopting digitization or digital archiving to save and preserve their assets. Now, it has become a worldwide phenomenon and every place, big or small, has adopted technology to give a new life to their collection.

It is even envisaged that in years to come, the word ‘Digital’ would have no meaning of its own. It would actually mean ‘Default’. Digital libraries and repositories have helped our cultural organizations in not only preserving the vast history but has also aided in its accessibility to a wider audience thus by satisfying its commercial viability as well.

Digitization seems to be the need of present and future to preserve our glory and pass it on to our coming generations for them to understand their roots, their forefathers’ journey of life and evolvement of the human brain. It helps in beautifully integrating the past into the present and together advance towards the future.