How to scan old and fragile bundled documents and glass plate negatives
November 30, 2005 4:18 AM   Subscribe

I have been given a set of WW1 officer training manuals. Some of them are in booklets, some are stapled packets and some are loose. I want to scan them to a CD so that they can be shared and read without handling the originals. I would like to scan them without bending or creasing the booklets and bundled paper. I have both a regular Canon Canoscan 8400 flatbed and an HP 4670 see through scanner ($38 on clearance at the local Staples.) Is there a way of scanning this material without damage? Any good discussion groups out there where WW1 memorabilia is discussed? I also found a box of glass plate negatives from a photographer that was operating in St Albans VT in the latter 19th century. I would like to scan them. Can either of these scanners be used or modified for large negative scanning? If I could find a pinout diagram for the Canoscan film scanner cable, I might be able to build a light source for large negatives.
posted by Raybun to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Are you affiliated with a university or college of any sort? Student, staff, alum, whatever. Give the school library a call and see if they are able to scan stuff for you. My library had a pretty nice Ariel setup that is very spine-friendly and yours may have the same.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:33 AM on November 30, 2005

Seconding robocop is bleeding. Check with an archival librarian at your local library or university for assistance. It sounds like you have some amazing things there, and it'd be a shame if they were ruined or damaged. If you're in the Colorado metro, drop me an email and I'll see if I can help you out.
posted by boo_radley at 5:14 AM on November 30, 2005

BYW. I should mention these booklets cannot be opened over 45 degrees.
posted by Raybun at 5:33 AM on November 30, 2005

What about setting up a tripod with a digital camera and taking photos of the pages? You wouldn't have to worry about breaking those bindings, and once you get it setup it should go fairly quickly as well.
posted by chuma at 6:28 AM on November 30, 2005

Interesting idea chuma. I looked at a photo of a Minolta ($$$$$$$$$$) scanner that will do books and saw that it would be a spine breaker. Have been thinking of a simular setup as plan B. Use a digital camera with a relay mirror, Invert and deskew in PS, save as a TIFF and run through OCR. I do not need page facimilies, just readable text. There are enough pages to do, and enough future oppurtunities to use this on future projects, to make a permanent rig. Has anyone ever built such a rig? I would like to be able to use the AF on the camera to save time. Is this possible when using a relay mirror. Would a back silvered mirror give an acceptable image for OCR?
posted by Raybun at 7:04 AM on November 30, 2005

While I can't offer any help on how to build such a rig, while I was doing research at the National Archives this summer, there were plenty of people using digital cameras to record the documents they were looking at. The process there was a simple stand that connected to the table and some folks placed their items on grid paper. It certainly was a viable enough path for serious researchers at the archives.
posted by Atreides at 7:55 AM on November 30, 2005

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