African American Soldiers Scanning and Digitization

One of the key components for any successful digital history project is the ease with which users can access and use the sources the digital historian provides. A major contributing factor to a website’s usability is the way historical documents and ephemera appear. In some cases, the handwriting in a document will be so illegible that only the highest resolution DPI allows viewers to even wager a guess as to what is actually written on the page. Scanning connects the contents of a digital archive to the “real” world by giving users a clearer idea of how the object appears in its physical form, wrinkles, scratches, and blemishes included. For this reason, using a high quality scanning resolution is necessary for the digital historian who wants to best convey the history of the displayed object itself.

My collection of surveys and ephemera about African American soldiers involved in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade extends from the first quarter of the twentieth century through its completion, which means much of the materials are typewritten and legible. For this reason most of the scanned materials can be uploaded using 300 DPI. Items like press clippings will be scanned at 600 DPI in order to ensure their visual crispness and clarity. The format of the original documents in this collection eases what could be one of the most time consuming parts of this project.. Once scanned, these documents will be saved on storage space obtained from the university sponsoring sponsoring this project.

For documents that are not neatly typewritten or legible it will be necessary to scan at 600 DPI and provide a transcription. Since most of these documents are relatively simple in their composition, such a low resolution will sufficiently display the items while conserving server space and expediting the scanning process.

The most difficult part of this process will be coordinating with the NYU Tamiment Archives to scan all the papers needed for my collection. As it is not typically their policy to allow users to scan documents, special permission will have to be granted. With the help of a library staffer, a personal appointment time can be set up to accomplish this task.


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