Image Documentation

Much of my work is concerned effective and affordable methods for documenting and
cataloging poster art as a means to
keep visual cultural artifacts in the public domain.

workers by Rini Templeton

Lincoln Cushing articles and projects
Database of American Labor Graphics

"Guide to Best Practices in Digital Documentation of Political Poster Art"
"Protection of Digital Images on the Web"
"Adventures in Copyright Violation: The Curious Case of Utopian Constructions”

Related articles
and sites
Society of American Archivists Visual Materials site
"Safeguarding Digital Library Contents and Users" by by Fred Mintzer, Jeffrey Lotspiech, and Norishige Morimoto
"Digitizing Historical Collections for the Internet" by Stephen E. Ostrow

Odd stuff
Kodak Shoebox. Remember when image management software came on two floppies?

Methodology and technical specifications

1. Photodocumentation: My previous practice was to use a Nikon 35mm camera with a Micro-Nikkor 60mm flat-field lens, shooting Kodachrome 25, the archival standard for fine resolution and image stability. Slides were then scanned using a dedicated slide scanner.

I have now switched to digital capture for three reasons: Kodak has discontinued sale of this film, processing has become more difficult, and high-resolution digital cameras have come down in price to the point that they are a practical choice. My first archival-quality digital camera was a Kodak DCS Pro SLR-n, which shot 13-megapixel images (3000 x 4500 pixels) and was quite satisfactory for most needs. However, as the MOA standards moved up in scale, I found myself requiring larger files. As of January 15, 2009 I am using a Sony Alpha 900 24-megapixel SLR, which shoots 36 MB RAW files that convert to 60 MB tiffs (6048x4032 pixels).

Shots go directly to a laptop, allowing for complete color balance control and designated sequential file numbering. The posters are held in place on a wall-mounted 3'x4' custom-built vacuum board, assuring flatness without damaging the posters. Lighting is provided by a pair of Lumedyne 200 watt-second electronic strobe units placed 45 to the copyboard. A strobe meter is used to assure even light balance over the image area. A standard color bar and grayscale accompany each shot. The original RAW format files are saved on CD, then cropped TIFFs are generated for catalog use. The resultant files are always equal to or larger than 3000 pixels (and in practice are usually in the 5000 pixel range) along the longest edge (MOA II guidelines).

Video of shooting and numbering posters from the AOUON collection before going to OMCA, 2010.

2. Image management: Scanned images are dropped into Extensis Portfolio, a commercial application which allows cataloging and retrieval. Search fields are set up for the electronic catalog, including artist, date, agency, original catalog number, new catalog number, medium, size, description, caption, condition, and source. The program allows compound searches based on all of the above information, and shows the images selected as thumbnails on-screen.

updated 4/1/2014
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