Milner Library Digitizing Center turns new page with acquisition of cutting-edge scanning system – News

The Milner Library Digitizing Center has scanned and photographed Illinois State University historic treasures for more than a decade. The Digitizing Center staff operates in close partnership with the Milner Special Collections department, the ISU ReD University institutional repository, and the Dr Archives. Jo Ann Rayfield to select, digitize and describe cultural heritage resources for research purposes. More than 75,000 of these images, from circus photos to children’s artwork, are freely available for users to view and interact with online through Milner’s digital collection.

This month, the Center brought online a new, state-of-the-art planetary scanner capable of producing highly accurate and detailed images in just a few seconds—ten times the time savings over the department’s previous large-format scanning system. Imported from France, the i2s Quartz A0 HD is optimized for large, flat media such as maps, posters, artwork and blueprints, but also promises to be volume bound and photo prints. These new tools will enable higher throughput of complex formats and open new avenues for collaboration.

A person uses a camera on a tripod and lighting equipment to photograph an old book for digitization.
The Digitization Center uses a variety of specialized equipment, including a flatbed scanner and a v-cradle photography system. Here, Beecroft’s Karmen Center Coordinator photographed a 100-year-old ledger using a copystand camera setup.

“We welcome the opportunity to expand our digital collection in response to classroom projects or other pedagogical applications,” said Beecroft Karmen Center Coordinator. “We are always happy to meet with people to refine their ideas and consider practical solutions to meet their digitization needs. It is important to note that given our current staff and production model; however, we generally cannot do mass digitization projects on a scale of hundreds or thousands of items.”

“Digitating historical materials is often much more expensive and labor-intensive than many people realize,” explains Beecroft. “The equipment required to produce the archival quality images we produce certainly represents the largest one-time outlay of funds, but the real cost comes from the time and expertise contributed by the library’s many stakeholders to the project. Our expanded team includes curators, conservators and cataloguers, in addition to a hefty IT support assistance. Working together, we prioritized materials for digitization that best represent the unique collection focus of Illinois State University, have the broadest possible research application, and are likely to deteriorate significantly in the years to come due to their inherent deteriorating nature.”

Faculty, staff and graduate students, as well as external researchers and community members, are encouraged to submit small requests (less than 20 files in total) using the Digitization Center web form. Fee-based services not directly related to courses, developing Milner’s digital collections, or advancing the University’s mission are also available. To propose a larger project, please contact Beecroft directly at kbeecro@IllinoisState.edu.

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