Cleaning, Scanning, Digitizing and Rehousing: A Journey with Glass Plate Negatives

February 13th, 2016 by Rebecca

Part III: Digitizing, Cataloging, and Re-Housing

Scanning the images was the second main step of the process. I made sure that the plates were scanned in the order in which they had been removed from the original crate and cleaned, so while we did not know if White had intended an order for the crates, we at least kept the plates in order within the crates themselves. The scanning was done on an Epson Expression 10000XL scanner, under standards laid out in the Museum’s Intern Guide. All of the scanned images were saved as TIF files to the Backup drive in the Archival Images folder. Once a full run of plates was scanned – usually thirteen, as that was the number that could fit in a drying box comfortably – the TIF files were converted to JPEGs using Adobe Photoshop.

The low-quality JPEGs were just the right size to be attached to the catalog records, the creation of which was the next step in the preservation process.

A 4x3in plate fits into a four flap enclosure. December 2015, Kristin Cook.

A 4x3in plate fits into a four flap enclosure. December 2015, Kristin Cook.

Each item in the Museum’s collection is cataloged individually. Some museums and archives catalog by collection and create finding aids, but the Museum of the White Mountains has committed to making each item discoverable. Catalog records are created in the program PastPerfect, which many small and medium-sized cultural heritage organizations use.

The final step in the preservation process was to rehouse the glass plate negatives. After the plates were scanned, their images had been captured and they no longer need to be handled. They were therefore stored long-term in archival-quality four flap negative enclosures. Sometimes the plates were the correct size for these enclosures, which the Museum has in three sizes; sometimes the enclosures needed to be cut down to the correct size for each plate.

The plates were then stored upright on their sides, as they were in the plate crates, but in an archival quality box with a padded bottom and sides for safety purposes. The box of plates, once full, could be transferred to the Museum storage, the preservation process would be complete, and the images on the plates now available to anyone who had access to the internet.

Part I: Introduction