History 428: Adventures in Digital History

HIST 428: Building an Audience, File Naming Protocols, and the Cobra Rare Book Scanner

Building an Audience

This week in ADH, we have been discussing ways to build an audience for our group projects. Last week, I talked about how our group decided to make an Instagram to document our project progress before we officially release our site at the end of the semester.

So far, Instagram has been a great tool for connecting to our audience, who is primarily the Rowe family, but also other interested individuals from UMW and the Fredericksburg community. We’ve structured our Instagram so that anything we post, including stories and highlights, will be saved so that anyone can see what we’ve been up to.

In fact, we’ve already been able to connect with members of the family who have helped clarify information about photographs that we are uncertain about. (This means that we will need a consistent format for citing Instagram DMs for our contributors page…) The Instagram is dually managed by Piper and myself.

File Naming Protocols

Over the course of this past week, our group had finalized what ended up being our first “batch” of scans, which are all organized on a master spreadsheet. Initially, we had set a goal to produce at least 100 scans, but only ended up identifying around 50 items to scan. This means that we will take another group meeting to identify additional scans.

On this past Friday, our group met in the Digital Archiving Lab for the first time to receive instructions from Angie Kemp as to how to use the various scanners and tools in the lab, as well as to begin scanning items from a box pertaining to Anne Wilson Rowe. Angie helped us figure out a file naming protocol to easily organize and keep track of our scanned items both on our spreadsheet and on the DAL computers. We were happy to be reminded to do this, as we previously hadn’t assigned uniform names to our artifacts. Now, we will be able to easily locate and manage our files, or even run a script to uniformly change their names in the future.

While creating our file naming structure, we ran into the small issue of where to store our information. As it turns out, roughly six tiff scans take up 2 GB of memory, and we only had an 8 GB flash drive with us. That means that we will likely spend a lot of time in the DAL’s computers converting our files down from preservation grade to smaller, more manageable files to use as thumbnails on our site.

While we did expect file storage to be an issue to think about and plan for beforehand, I have to say that I had personally forgotten about just how much space files can take up, and that yes, even in 2020, storage is still an issue.

The Cobra Rare Book “Scanner”

The two scanners that we used in the DAL were the Cobra Rare Book scanner and the Epsom flatbed scanners. The Epsom scanners are actual scanners, like what you would see downstairs in Simpson Library, and take a few minutes to create a tiff scan.

The Cobra however, is not actually a true “scanner,” but rather, a series of cameras that take high resolution photographs of artifacts. I was truly impressed with the Cobra machine, and found it interesting how, as Angie pointed out, its software is ironically low-end compared to how well-designed the machine itself is. We added a few photos of our first day in the DAL to our Instagram feed and highlights.

Overall, I am happy that our group has begun to make progress on our scans, even though we’ve discovered that we need to identify more items to scan. I have enjoyed using both Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab, as I have never used them before in prior classes.

2 thoughts on “HIST 428: Building an Audience, File Naming Protocols, and the Cobra Rare Book Scanner

  1. Great job at explaining our work this week! I think our instagram account has been really helpful in connecting with the Rowe family, and we’ve already started to build up an audience– something I forgot to mention in my post. I know we discussed using Microsoft Office Suite for storage; do you think this might be a viable option, or would you rather keep our images on a physical drive?

    1. Thanks for the reminder on Microsoft Office Suite!

      I had no idea that it offered unlimited storage for us until Angie reminded us.

      I think that we will have to test out using Microsoft to see how long it takes us to upload our large photos. If the time is short enough, it may be the most convenient option. If the uploads take too long, we may want to try to work in the DAL/HCC as much as possible or work using thumb drives.

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