Digitising large, fragile old maps?

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Digitising large, fragile old maps?

David Gerard-2
This is an "Ask Slashdot" on how to digitise large, fragile old maps
that are too fragile to just put on a scanner:

http://ask.slashdot.org/story/10/03/10/2041245/Digitizing-and-Geocoding-Old-Maps

Anyone want to go there and help?

How would you approach this problem? Say you've gotten your hands on a
serious ancient map collection and want to scan them and put them on
Commons before they turn into dust.


- d.

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Re: Digitising large, fragile old maps?

geni
On 10 March 2010 22:15, David Gerard <[hidden email]> wrote:

> This is an "Ask Slashdot" on how to digitise large, fragile old maps
> that are too fragile to just put on a scanner:
>
> http://ask.slashdot.org/story/10/03/10/2041245/Digitizing-and-Geocoding-Old-Maps
>
> Anyone want to go there and help?
>
> How would you approach this problem? Say you've gotten your hands on a
> serious ancient map collection and want to scan them and put them on
> Commons before they turn into dust.

While very large flatbed scanners do exist the only way to do it with
a reasonable budget is to place on a flat surface and photograph
straight down. Getting the lighting right is an absolute pain though.
That can be kept good enough for rough and ready results by moving the
camera further back and relying on distance to diffuse the flash.
Alternatively long exposure times and rely on natural light. Post
processing can help a lot with B&W maps. Colour would present a major
challenge.

Heh problem those on a budget are more likely to face is how to do
this with maps in a library where tripods and the like are unlikely to
be an option.

--
geni

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Re: Digitising large, fragile old maps?

Stephen Bain
On Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 9:35 AM, geni <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> While very large flatbed scanners do exist the only way to do it with
> a reasonable budget is to place on a flat surface and photograph
> straight down.

A handheld scanner would do the job (or, as someone suggested at
Slashdot, remove the lid from a regular-sized flatbed scanner, and
move either it or the map around to scan sections of it that can be
stitched together with software).

> Getting the lighting right is an absolute pain though.
> That can be kept good enough for rough and ready results by moving the
> camera further back and relying on distance to diffuse the flash.

Most GLAMs that allow people to do their own photography of materials
don't allow the use of flashes, for fear of damaging any
light-sensitive inks or papers; direct sunlight is out for the same
reason. I have been to several GLAMs, however, that will let people
bring in tripods for their cameras with permission, and that have
stands available for photography. I guess, check with your local
institution to see what services they can offer.

Doing this at home, a room with plenty of diffuse natural light - such
as one with a skylight - would be good.

--
Stephen Bain
[hidden email]

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Re: Digitising large, fragile old maps?

Geoffrey Plourde
One thing I would stress when handling old maps is that carefulness is key. Whatever approach you use, be sure to support the entire map and not cause anymore damage to it.
 
If I were a GLAM, I'd be a bit hesitant about allowing volunteers to do this without training. Maybe it would be a good idea to intern at a GLAM doing conservation and archival stuff before trying to scan in their maps?


From: Stephen Bain <[hidden email]>
To: Wikimedia Commons Discussion List <[hidden email]>
Sent: Wed, March 10, 2010 10:22:08 PM
Subject: Re: [Commons-l] Digitising large, fragile old maps?

On Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 9:35 AM, geni <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> While very large flatbed scanners do exist the only way to do it with
> a reasonable budget is to place on a flat surface and photograph
> straight down.

A handheld scanner would do the job (or, as someone suggested at
Slashdot, remove the lid from a regular-sized flatbed scanner, and
move either it or the map around to scan sections of it that can be
stitched together with software).

> Getting the lighting right is an absolute pain though.
> That can be kept good enough for rough and ready results by moving the
> camera further back and relying on distance to diffuse the flash.

Most GLAMs that allow people to do their own photography of materials
don't allow the use of flashes, for fear of damaging any
light-sensitive inks or papers; direct sunlight is out for the same
reason. I have been to several GLAMs, however, that will let people
bring in tripods for their cameras with permission, and that have
stands available for photography. I guess, check with your local
institution to see what services they can offer.

Doing this at home, a room with plenty of diffuse natural light - such
as one with a skylight - would be good.

--
Stephen Bain
[hidden email]

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Re: Digitising large, fragile old maps?

David Gerard-2
On 11 March 2010 08:24, Geoffrey Plourde <[hidden email]> wrote:

> One thing I would stress when handling old maps is that carefulness is key.
> Whatever approach you use, be sure to support the entire map and not cause
> anymore damage to it.
> If I were a GLAM, I'd be a bit hesitant about allowing volunteers to do this
> without training. Maybe it would be a good idea to intern at a GLAM doing
> conservation and archival stuff before trying to scan in their maps?


The use case here is someone who has the old maps in his personal
collection and is wondering how to deal with them.

Suggestions I liked on Slashdot included (a) ask your local museum for
advice (b) ask local art shops for advice - where do local artists get
paintings scanned at a reasonable price?


- d.

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