Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Update, with life-hacks

Unlike The Great Blog Silence of 2006, my recent lack of posts has not been planned and cannot be traced to a single cause. I've been busy traveling to Denver to find a place to rent (mission thankfully accomplished!). I've been busy visiting some archives around Baltimore that I still want to see before moving 1,700 miles away from them. And right now I'm on vacation, so I'm busy being not busy.

My recent archive trips have gone very well, and I've already spoiled myself by using my new digital camera to take pictures of manuscript documents. I was using a Canon Powershot A620 on a small 12-inch tripod with a panning head. Evan Roberts' tips on amateur digitization for historians proved very useful in this regard. I would add a couple of tips to his list that I stumbled upon through trial and error on my first day of full-time digitization:

1. Take your photographs at the highest possible resolution, especially if you are working with manuscripts. I was tempted to skimp on resolution the first day in order to keep the file sizes down. But this made some of the images essentially useless and over-pixelated when I zoomed in far enough to be able to read them. You can always resize the images to a smaller resolution once you've transcribed the documents at home, so buy a large memory card and max out the image size while you're in the archive.

2. A camera with "remote shooting" capability makes life a lot easier. On my first day in the archive, I found myself getting quite a work out jumping up from my seat for each document in order to frame it in the LCD screen and close the shutter. After that first day, I read a little more about my camera's capabilities online and discovered that it comes packaged with software that allows me to control the camera from my Powerbook. That meant I could stay seated at the table, slide documents under the tripod-mounted camera, frame the image using a viewfinder window on my computer, and then close the shutter using a hotkey on my keyboard. The A620 software is seamless and allows you to control any setting on the camera from the computer. Best of all, it downloads captured images directly to your hard drive using the standard USB cord, bypassing the camera's internal memory card altogether. From the very beginning you can control how the computer will name your files and where it will store them. So if you're in the market for a camera that you want to use in the archives, I'd recommend inquiring about this feature, which seems somewhat rare. (The Canon A610, for instance, doesn't have it, even though the A620 does.)

As long as I'm talking gizmos, I also want to recommend a useful website called Map Builder, which lets you easily create your own annotated Google Map and then display it dynamically on a webpage. I found this extremely useful when I was house-hunting a week and a half ago because my wife was unable to join me in Denver. Map Builder enabled me to "flag" rental properties I was looking at along with links to ads. I was also able to take photos of places, upload them to the web, and include links to the images in the map itself. This made it much easier for my wife and I to discuss the properties at the end of each day, with a color-coded map and all the properties in front of us. A similar map might be useful if you're planning a long distance move and want to keep track of where different houses or apartments are.

Collective Improvisation:
thanks for the archive tips -- I have an old powershot and need to experiment a bit to see if it will be sufficient for my needs...

Posted by Blogger Mel on 7/03/2006 12:04:00 AM : Permalink  

Great tips, thanks!

Posted by Blogger Museum Madness on 7/06/2006 02:35:00 PM : Permalink  

I did end up deciding on Flickr, although I haven't posted very many pictures yet. One of the things that clinched it for me was my discover of FlickrExport, a plug-in that allows me to upload photos directly from iPhoto to my Flickr account.

Posted by Blogger Caleb McDaniel on 7/13/2006 10:04:00 PM : Permalink  

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