Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tools, Plans, and Budget

So far I've purchased an inexpensive digital camera ($129), a couple of memory cards, and a lot of lithium batteries. The trip to Erie to organize, pack, and return with all the archival material intact cost a couple of hundred if you factor in the gas, boxes, food, and tolls.

To get started in the digital preservation effort, I have a tentative plan for round one. I will purchase an Epson Perfection V750 scanner, a Pantone "huey" color calibrator, a copy of Apple Aperture 1.5, and a few books: one on color management, one on digital photo restoration, and Apple's training guide to Aperture. This will get me going on the scanning and restoration side of the equation. This round will cost about $1100.

Some larger items I may want to scan with a digital camera and tripod instead of the flatbed. So there may be a slightly nicer digital camera to factor into the project costs. The one I have in mind is the Samsung NV20 (12 megapixels, $350). I will need to organize some kind of lighting rig but I can probably improvise with some of Grace's video lighting fixtures.

My grandmother definitely lived with an eye towards preserving her heritage for her children and grandchildren. Among her papers are journal entries written for her children. My mother, too, had a sense of connection to her family and family history. I think if my mother had lived longer she would have also, at some point, turned her efforts towards preservation. She died earlier than she expected. So, I see this project as a way to finish some things she did not live to finish herself. I am also thinking of this project as an investment for the next few generations.

I have had a long-standing wish to preserve my family's photographs -- pretty much ever since the days of early scanners like the Thunderscan, a device that fit in place of the ribbon in an ImageWriter dot-matrix printer. I have not, up until recently, been really satisfied with the quality of the tools that I could afford. But at this point in the history of electronic imaging tools the distinction between high-end consumer-grade tools and fully "professional" items is very small.

I used to be pretty good with Photoshop; I got good with layers, and knew most of the keyboard/mouse combinations to do funky things with selection and masking. However, that was a while ago. Aperture seems like the tool for this job because, although it is targeted at camera RAW images, most of the workflow features seem like they will really help with a project like this. If it were a few dozen images, or even a few hundred, I might try to get by with free tools or do all the retouching within iPhoto. But for a few thousand, I need to make the workflow efficient, and Aperture is designed for that.

For round two, the tentative plan calls for an Epson Stylus R2400 inkjet printer (a higher-end, 9-ink printer), for around $775.

The rest of the project costs will be mostly consumables: archival storage boxes, envelopes, albums, album sheets, corners, cleaning supplies, Pantone inks, matte photo paper. I don't have a good estimate for this phase -- it depends entirely on how many new prints I want to make and distribute, but I'm guessing another $1,000 or more. Then, there is shipping. That can start to add up quickly.

So, quite a project outlined! But I believe my mother would have approved of the goals, if not the methods and cost.

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