Thursday, September 10, 2009

Journal Facsimiles Update

So, I sent a photocopy of the original to Joan and Don Joy in Conway, South Carolina, so Joan could finish reading it, while I work on the rebinding of the original and the production of the facsimiles.

Today I picked up a proof copy of the facsimiles on ordinary paper, done for Bessenberg by a service bureau in Saline. The result isn't very good -- the problem is, the original is fine-point blue ball-point pen on somewhat faded paper. Turn that into a straight one-bit-per-pixel image using thresholding, and you've got a gritty-looking image with dropouts; bring the threshold up too high to make it darker, and the background starts to get speckled.

Bessenberg sends out their scanning and printing to a service bureau, so the binding is now on hold while I work with the service bureau to come up with something that looks better. They're probably accustomed to scanning dissertations in crisp black print on a white background, which doesn't require a high bit depth. I think what I'll have to do is ask them to scan it again, in color at perhaps 600 dpi, and give me a disc with the images. I'll then have to spend some time playing around with the images in Photoshop, which may mean finding the best per-page settings, then bring it down to a dithered black and white image, and have them print that.

So, on the one hand it looks like I will have to put more time into it, where I was hoping to pay other people to do all that. But on the other hand, the results should be closer to what I want -- and if it works out right, I'll also have an archival digital version, which is actually more than I had originally hoped for.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bessenberg Bindery

With Grace's help, I've finally gotten my act together enough to take Marcella's journal to Bessenberg bindery, to have it bound in a new cover, along with a box. The original cover is disintegrating, but fortunately the paper in the book is holding up well, and it is sewn, and can thus be put in a new cover without too much difficulty.

I'm also having five bound archival-quality facsimile copies made, and an unbound facsimile to be kept in a box. This should make it easier to scan or make further copies in the future. I'm also hunting for someone to finish transcribing the whole thing, after realizing that I'm not going to have time to type it all; and even if I did, my wrists just aren't up to that much typing. I'm on the computer pretty much all day at work as it is, and don't want to give myself an attack of tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

And finally, I have a photocopy (on ordinary photocopy paper, made at a Staples), which I'm sending back to Joan and Don so that they can finish reading it.

When the original is done, I'll send that to Joan and Don as well. The facsimiles are for the grandchildren. They estimated they would be done in about three weeks.

I'm not making a lot of headway in my scanning and archiving -- it's a lot of work! And when Joshua arrived, our free time was squeezed just that little bit further, and a lot of our planned activities fell apart. But I will keep plugging away as best as I can.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Starting a New Album: Clarkes, 1902-1935

I am starting to scan and restore images from an old album of my grandmother's, marked "Clarkes 1902-1935." To do this I had to take it apart, but fortunately this one has a tied binding. Some of the other albums are going to be trickier.

It is another black paper album, and is quite worn. The photos tend to have too much or too little contrast, and some silvering. There are a lot of hand-written comments in white ink, but many of them are difficult to read. I'll try to do restorations of some of the more promising images.

Here's a detail of one of the clearer photos, a scan prior to any cleanup. It shows Joe and H. Harrison Clarke, Marcella's brothers. It isn't dated, but 1912 seems like a reasonable guess; H. Harrison Clarke was born in 1902.

I'm scanning these at 1200 dpi, to try to capture any fine detail that is lurking in the grain. Here's a first attempt at cleaning up dirt and scratches on the image and adjusting the contrast. Take a look at the blousy shirts, the ties, the pantaloons, and the shoes!

Retouching is a compromise; I've used Photoshop's spot healing brush along with my Wacom tablet to blend out a lot of dirt and scratches. That's an endless process, though, so at some point you have to stop and focus just on the faces and most visible damage. If you get too aggressive with the spot healing, then you start to get a plastic-looking surface, and if you clean up one area very thoroughly and leave other areas dirty, it looks strange and uneven. Also, at this point I'm not even going to attempt to clean up the whitish rubbed areas across the middle of the picture; it's beyond my current retouching skills.

To bring up the sharpness, I hit the unsharp mask filter pretty hard. The image starts to look a little grainy, but you get some details back that tend to look blurry if you don't sharpen them. It's a compromise and I'm still learning how to get the best results.

Of course, I'm also preserving both the original paper album as best I can -- although in another hundred years the acidic black paper will have probably rendered the images even more illegible -- and the original scans, for someone else to play with in the future. That someone might be me in a few years.