Table of Contents for: Section J | Entire RFP




The project described in this section is being carried out by the Prints and Photographs Division with the cooperative assistance from the Library's Manuscript Division and the National Digital Library program. The purpose of this project is to digitize approximately 32,000 original 35mm nitrate negatives created by the anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali and Papua New Guinea from 1936-1939. As far as can be determined, Bateson used one or more 35mm Leica cameras to create the original images. The Balinese were the primary focus of Mead and Bateson's research, but the husband-and-wife pair also assembled comparative field data with the Iatmul people of New Guinea. Mead and Bateson hoped to use their field documentation to develop a new method for the study of intangible aspects of culture. Their work in Bali and the 1942 publication Balinese Character, which makes extensive use of the photographs covered by this RFP, are landmarks in the history of anthropology.

Because of the inherent deterioration of nitrate negatives, the Library is seeking to achieve a very high quality digital image surrogate of each image in the Mead-Bateson collection. The digital files will provide researchers with online access to the collection, enable quick-copying of image files for reference, and provide high-quality digital "masters" for printing in publications.


5.2.1 Film and Condition

The contractor shall copy approximately 32,000 original nitrate film negatives and positives from the Mead-Bateson collection. Approximately 1 percent of the originals exist only in the form of safety film diapositives (film positives); these are positives made from negatives that are now lost. The original negatives and transparencies are uncut rolls of 35mm film, varying from approximately 20 to 42 frames in length. During physical processing at the Library, the film was removed from the cans and is currently stored on 2-inch plastic cores secured with archival microfilm reel tags (wraparound paper cover).

The film has an appreciable amount of curl and tends to roll onto itself when not on the core. When copying the original negatives, the film must be unwound from the 2-inch core prior to duplication. Film shall be removed in such a manner that it is not torn, broken, scratched, or damaged in any way. After the film is copied, it shall be rewound onto a 2-inch core and resecured with the correct microfilm tag. The contractor shall ensure that the correct film rolls are returned to the correct box.

The film is becoming brittle with age and some of the sprocket holes have torn. The contractor shall consider the possibility that the edges of the film could catch/snag during handling. The scanning equipment shall safely support the film without causing further tears or damage.

5.2.2 Nitrate Deterioration

The Library will inspect the original negatives for signs of deterioration prior to delivery to the contractor. The contractor shall, before copying, re-inspect each negative for deterioration. If the contractor discovers a roll of negatives or diapositives that show any signs of deterioration not documented by the Library, the contractor shall not scan those rolls at that time. Instead, the contractor shall notify the COTR and, if the COTR can make an appropriate judgement based on verbal or written description, the contractor will be authorized to proceed. If then COTR cannot make a judgement based on verbal or written description, then the contractor shall return those rolls to the Library for additional inspection. If, after this inspection, the COTR determines that the proposed scanning methods will safely accommodate the deteriorated film, then the film will be returned for scanning.

5.2.3 Extreme Deterioration

To the best of the Library's knowledge, this collection does not include extreme cases of deterioration, such as delamination and severe channeling. If rolls that manifest extreme deterioration are found during the production period, and if the contractor is unable to scan them, they will not be required to be scanned under the terms of this contract. These rolls shall be returned to the Library.

Some of the negatives exhibit staining (yellow staining being the most common). During image capture, the contractor shall make no attempt to retouch the image to correct for staining, i.e., the contractor shall not restore the image. Adjustments to the tonal range, brightness, contrast, and other features, however, may be made to individual images in cases where staining inhibits the ability to see visual elements of the photograph. The contractor shall propose the methods to be employed in these cases for approval by the Library during the collection technical setup phase.

5.2.4 Item and Roll Identification

The collection contains approximately 939 uncut film rolls varying from 20 to 42 frames in length. The arrangement and numbering of the original negatives were based on a two part system. First, Mead and Bateson assigned numbers to the storage cans they used. By the end of their fieldwork, they had filled 36 cans. Within each can, they assigned letters to the individual rolls within the cans (never more than 26, the number of letters in the alphabet). For example, the original storage can 3 contained rolls 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, through 3Z.

The Library assigned the negatives in the collection the series prefix MDB25, which stands for Mead collection, Bali-Iatmul field trip, nitrate 35mm original. The prefix is one of the first elements in the Library's unique item identification number for each negative; it is

followed by the numbers originally assigned by Mead and Bateson. For example, here is the breakdown for the item identification number LC-MDB25-05H-07:


Library of Congress
Series identifier
Roll number
Frame number (latent image edge number or a number inked between the sprocket holes)

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Library removed the rolls from Mead and Bateson's original storage cans and wound them onto individual cores (as indicated above). Sets of rolls have been grouped in storage boxes marked with the series code (MDB25) and the identifying numbers for the rolls it contains. For example, Box 12 contains 26 strips numbered 12A through 12Z. The microfilm tags wrapped around each roll has been labeled with the roll identification number (i.e., the item identification number omitting the specific frame number), for example, "LC-MDB25-03G". This number has also been inked or scratched into the tag ends of most of the rolls of film.

Each individual image appearing on the rolls has a frame number, either a latent number printed on the film stock or a hand-written number supplied by the Library during processing. The numbers were written on the base side of the film and appear in the sprocket hole area. Depending upon the physical characteristics of the original strip of film, frame numbers may appear on either the upper or lower sprocket hole area. The film is usually wound onto the core in such a way that frame number 1 unwinds first, but exceptions may occur. Mead and Bateson may also have written frame numbers or made additional notations on the film, usually in non-image areas.

Because the film was bulk-loaded camera stock, the film frame numbers may not ascend in numerical order from 0 or 1. For example, some rolls may present a series of frame numbers like "44, 1, 2..." and so forth.

5.2.5 Tracking Database

During physical processing of the negatives at the Library, the Mead negative series was inventoried into a relational database (Paradox). A exported copy of this database (in an ASCII comma-delimited format) will be provided to the contractor. The database includes the following fields: (1) Series, can and roll, (2) Frame count, (3) Frame number, (4) Gap, (5) Special Instructions, and (6) Digital ID. These fields and aspects of their content are described in the sections that follow. Every image frame on the rolls of film is represented by a record in the database.

The contractor shall assign a digital item identifier for images produced by scanning individual frames and enter this identifier to a (new) blank field in the database. Series, can, and roll number

This field provides the core elements in the roll identification number.

Data example: MDB25-02Q Frame count

This field provides the total number of frames on the roll.

Data example: 38.00 Frame number

This field indicates the frame number of the image as it appears on the film, either as a latent image or inked by LC staff. The following two sections contain information and requirements regarding partial frames, double exposures, and gaps.

Data example: 03

[Note: The inventory uses the pound sign character (#) as a prefix for frame numbers that physically precede frame number 1 on a specific roll. So in the case where frame 44 physically precedes frame 1, the database will list frame 44 as #44. This was done to cause the database software to sort the record to precede the record for frame 1.] Partial frames

The collection includes about 275 partial frames, defined as a frame less than 8 sprocket holes in width. In the database, partial frames are listed in the Individual Frame field as "[#]-P" (e.g., 26-P).

The contractor shall reproduce partial frames so that the partial frame and the frame adjacent to it appear in a single digital image. For example, the database record for frame 26-P indicates that frame 26-P and frame 26 should appear together in a single digital image. The adjacent full frame (frame 26 in this case) shall also be scanned by itself, without the adjacent partial frame. The collection contains 275 or fewer partial frames. Wide-frame double exposures

The collection includes about 150 wide-frame double exposures, defined as cases where film did not advance properly and two images overlap each other, yielding an image that is more than 8 sprocket holes wide. In the database, wide frames are listed in the Individual Frame field as "[#]-W" (e.g., 41-W).

The contractor shall reproduce the wide frames as a single overlapping image. Gap

Gaps in the film are defined as clear space where no image exists. In the database, these have a field of their own; the presence of a gap is indicated by an asterisk (*).

The contractor shall skip over gaps in the film; no image shall be produced. Special Instructions