2. Two surveys of the field

Survey of imaging practices. The Manuscript Digitization Demonstration Project began with a survey of imaging practices at selected libraries, archives, and commercial sites. Picture Elements staff carried out the survey in January 1995, seeking information about projects in which manuscripts or manuscript-like materials were being digitized. The survey questionnaire is provided in Appendix C.

Picture Elements contacted archives and libraries through several Internet listserv E-mail discussion forums relevant to libraries. Nearly all returned questionnaires were from organizations responding to the posting on the IMAGELIB listserv. Organizations not responding to the survey, but known (from their publications or by other means), to have projects were contacted by telephone.

Responses to the survey of practices. Formal responses to the survey were received from the first five organizations listed below. Picture Elements supplemented the formal survey with interviews conducted by telephone or in person; this step added responses from two additional organizations.

These responses represented the state of the projects as of early 1995. Since significant changes took place between 1995 and 1997, when this report reached completion, and since a number of new projects have been launched in the intervening years, the following listing is limited to a brief categorization.

University of Georgia Libraries. Paper document scanning project.

Rutgers University: Thomas Edison Papers. Project in planning stage.

University of Maryland. Project in planning stage.

University of Maine. Project converting wide range of materials, including some manuscripts.

New York University. Project in planning stage.

Cornell University. Book scanning project.

Virginia State Library. Historical record scanning project.

Summary of survey of imaging practices. The early 1995 survey uncovered relatively little activity in the digital capture of manuscript documents. There were a few small-scale but no large-scale projects. There was much more activity relating to printed matter, notably the project at the Cornell University Libraries. It is also worth noting that most large-scale efforts in the planning stages focused on printed matter. Where manuscript scanning was being tested or under way, workers reported a mix of binary image production and the production of grayscale or color images.

During the survey period, a published report described a relevant project not covered by the survey. The report detailed the planned approach for an Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS), based upon the previous work of Duke University and the University of Michigan in the scanning of papyri, a highly challenging subclass of the larger class of manuscripts. This group's recommendations included the use of full 32 bit color at 600 dpi. Archival images were to be stored without compression while access images would be produced using JPEG compression.

The papyrus project has been described by principal investigator Roger Bagnall in an article titled Digital Imaging of Papyri in the CPA Newsletter #83, October 1995 and in the report Digital Imaging of Papyri, published by the Council on Library and Information Resources (September 1995, ISBN 1-887334-44-0). Additional information on APIS is available from the following sources:

Although no formal survey of private industry practice was undertaken, Picture Elements relied on their familiarity with this field and reported that digital image systems used by business firms (the field of "office document imaging") generally create binary images. Most commercial operations are scanning forms, office correspondence, and other high-contrast materials with a clean background. Grayscale or color images are produced in exceptional cases such as when photographs must be captured, e.g., for insurance companies, or for the scanning of airline tickets (with their characteristic rich colors and low-contrast, fuzzy features produced by the imprinting approaches used), or with bank checks.

Survey of hardware and software. The consultants also surveyed manufacturers of scanning hardware and image enhancement software.

The survey of available image enhancement software is covered in Appendices D, E and F.

The survey of available scanning hardware for fragile documents and for high throughput is covered in Appendices G, H and I. A presentation on Aspects of High-Speed Scanning is presented in Appendix B.


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