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A Million Pictures: Recommendations for the Digitisation of Magic Lantern Slides


What can be expected from this document?

We publish introductory explanations, recommendations and working lists to support those in need of information about digitising slides and the various factors this implicates. We hope that the academic and practical research which the “digitising working group” of A Million Pictures has done will help collection owners to take the decision (if not already done so) to digitise their precious items to make them digitally available to others who share their interests and passions.

Most of the available and consulted sources give practical advice. What this document wants is first of all to examine the technical parameters involved, as they are needed not only to understand the section “Practical examples of accomplished digitising projects” where several digitising projects effectuated by members of the AMP research group are described and recommendations given. The choice of whether to work with a scanner or a still-camera, decision grounded on a deeper understanding of theoretical and practical aspects that determine the digitisation process also matters. It matters also in the interpretation of the often cryptic language that manufacturers commonly use to promote their products’ potential. Our second concern is to give practical suggestions how to digitise. Last, but not least our third motive is to set standards for the digitisation of slides for which we advise to always choose the highest level possible.

The following reflections are structured so as to allow readers of all levels of interest and expertise to adjust the extent of their engagement with this topic. As we don’t give advice but just want to provide, as much as possible, neutral information about two methods of digitising slides (scanner and/or a camera), we normally don’t name particular companies and special hard- and software. Our recommendations are based on the conviction that we as beholders of a cultural heritage should consider slides as token of the past, as historic artefacts that should be reproduced digitally to make them publicly available for research, and to keep them alive in the memory of society. Both, to prevent the slide from falling into oblivion, and to submit it to academic analysis, we would like to make sure that the digital surrogate remains as close as possible to the original.

As James Ferwerda, teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology, states: “Digitization has had an enormous impact on access to fine art collections. Art that was once sequestered behind closed doors can now be accessed worldwide through digital images.” (Ferwerda 2011, p. 111) We think that it is the responsibility of everybody to reproduce slides as faithfully as today’s tools allow so as to give the user a chance to know them as if s/he had them in her/his hand.

We hope you enjoy reading our pages.
The “digitising working group” of the research project A Million Pictures

Richard Crangle, LUCERNA at Trier University
Sarah Dellmann, Utrecht University
Xavier Frutos, Salamanca University
Joe Kember, Exeter University
Sabine Lenk, Antwerp University
Anke Napp, Hamburg University
Daniel Pitarch Fernández, Girona University
Ine van Doren, Screen Archive South East, Brighton
Ludwig Vogl-Bienek, Illuminago, eLantern at Trier University

Our thanks go to Barbara Flueckiger for sharing the then unpublished DIASTOR report, to Anke Napp for sharing her experience of photographing slides, Ludwig Vogl-Bienek for sending us his unpublished article “Photographic digitisation of works in the historical art of projection” written for eLaterna, Roy Webster for his advice on photographic details, Ingeborg Eggink for sharing her MA-thesis at the Reinwardt Akademie (Amsterdam) on the conservation of photographically generated glass plates positives and negatives and answering related question, Alexandra Kinevskaya for accomplishing the role of web designer and technical builder of this website, Henc de Roo for giving permission to publish his ideas on the subject which appeared first on his website Luikerwaal (www.luikerwaal.com/), Claire Dupré la Tour, Emily Hayes, and Frank Kessler for their proof-reading.