Best of 2017: Images from the Digital Archiving Lab

As 2017 draws to a close, it is a good time to evaluate our digitization projects for the year, taking a look at our successes, challenges, and opportunities. It is also a time when I get to remember the particularly fun and creative scanning set-ups, as well as still shake my head in amazement that I got to work with a book from the 17th century (even after years in this profession, that feeling never wears off!). Furthermore, I have the chance to consider adding a few more items to my “favorites” list that Special Collections and University Archives staff are often asked to discuss!

So, how do I determine my favorite items? Well, I love unique items and digitization challenges! I’ve particularly enjoyed scanning or photographing materials that require a little extra creativity in setting up the camera studio, or some extra processes in the software to emphasize certain aspects of an image.

Here are some of my favorite items that passed through the Digital Archiving Lab this year:

Clothing – Typically, we think of papers and books when the word “archives” is mentioned, but here at UMW, we have many different types of artifacts, in addition to the documents. At the History Harvest this year, we were able to photograph MWC clothing from the 1970s and add those images to our collection. We also photographed an Equestrian Team t-shirt from 2003 that is a part of our physical archive. Aside from creating unique photography studio conditions for each clothing project, it is also interesting to see all of the different designs that have appeared on UMW merchandise!


Photograph of the camera, tripod, and t-shirt set up in the Digital Archiving Lab.

The Digital Archiving Lab turns into a photography studio when digitizing clothing and other artifacts.

Photograph of a grey shirt with the words "Mary Washington Equestrian," a horse jumping, and the year 1918.

The final photograph of the Mary Washington College Equestrian t-shirt.

Scrapbooks – We have a wonderful collection of over 50 scrapbooks in our archive, and I’ve had the opportunity to scan entire books or certain pages throughout the year. I love scrapbooks because the photographs and notes give the reader an individualized look into what campus was like in decades past that you can’t always interpret from official documents or histories. Scrapbooks often require very careful handling for digitization, but being able to provide digital copies of these special pages means that many, many more people will get to see them while the original remains safe and secure in the archive.

Image of a scrapbook page with a photograph of an event at Mary Washington College during World War II, with the caption "The Flag Goes Up!"

Photograph from the Victory Book, detailing events and programs to support the war effort at Mary Washington College during World War II. The Victory Book was won of the first scrapbooks scanned in 2017.

Image of a scrapbook page with five small photographs glued to. Each photograph shows students in daily life activities, such as gardening.

This scrapbook, created by Helen Davenport Smith (Class of 1919), showcased daily life at Mary Washington, which included gardening. The images from this scrapbook are part of our digital collections, courtesy of Joyce Lee Smith, ’58.

Very, very large books – A normal workflow for scanning items from Special Collections and University Archives involves a staff member carefully carrying materials to the Digital Archiving Lab. However, a couple of times this year, we had to use a library cart to transport one book! My favorite aspect of digitizing these large, heavy tomes is photographing the spine; it is always exciting to give patrons a better visualization of how their individually scanned pages fit into the whole book.

Photograph of a chained book.

You might remember reading about chained books from an earlier post. This book not only had a chain for security, but it was quite heavy, too!

Photograph of a large Herball.

Only a few of the pages from this 17th century Herball were digitized, and it was brought over to the Digital Archiving Lab on a cart!

December 8, 2017