|Making This Virtual Exhibition (con't.)|
How Did We Handle/Digitize the Materials?
All of the scrapbooks are in delicate condition since their pages are not acid-free and many of the cut-outs and newspaper clippings are also on paper that is decomposing. The Prince Edward Island scrapbooks especially are rapidly disintegrating. The pages have broken away from the spines, and some of the fragile flowers and souvenirs have shattered. The scrapbooks in Guelph are of a tougher fabric and paper and have been on display far less, but they are also too delicate for extensive handling. Anyone touching the scrapbooks must use white gloves so that body acids do not further disturb the vulnerable materials.
Making this virtual exhibition has given archivists and scholars an opportunity to create analogue (film) images of each page. The final selection of pages was made after the photographs were taken. Eventually, facsimile research and display copies will be made of all six of the scrapbooks, scanning the film images into a computer to create the digital images at various resolutions. We chose to create film photographs rather than digital ones of the scrapbook pages initially so that we would have an archival-quality image that could be scanned in various ways (such as drum scans) and at different resolutions.
Photographing the scrapbooks took time because there are so many artefacts that must be opened up, such as envelopes or greeting cards, or have multiple pages--such as programs. Some items had to be photographed several times.
The Prince Edward Island scrapbooks were photographed by Lionel Stevenson of Camera Art in Charlottetown, PEI, using Fuji color film on a 4 X 5 view camera (uncannily similar to the one Montgomery herself probably used in Cavendish in the 1890's though hers had a glass plate in place of the film slot). The Ontario scrapbooks were photographed by Dean Palmer of The Scenario in Guelph, Ontario using a 4 X 5 camera. The selected Prince Edward Island scrapbook pages were scanned at 600 resolution; the Guelph ones at 600 resolution. The Guelph scrapbook pages were sent to Prince Edward Island on CDs so the curator could make a final selection from the color images and so that the hundred individual images could be extracted directly from the pages. The Web designers, Laura Powell and Peter Morrison of Virtual Art Inc. of Prince Edward Island, used watermarked images (digimarc) at 100 resolution so that they cannot be illegally downloaded or reproduced since they are owned by the various archives and by the Heirs of L.M. Montgomery, Inc.
For a scrapbook page to fit onto a computer screen, the whole image must be greatly reduced in size. We wanted viewers to be able to see each item in its original size and also to be able to zoom in and out to see it up as closely as they would with a magnifying glass or from several feet away in an exhibition. The William Blake Archive at the University of Virginia has developed wonderful digital archives of Blake's illuminated manuscripts. The archive makes their zooming architecture available to educational organizations, and we are grateful to be able to use it for this Virtual Museum exhibition.
The National Library of Canada photographed each of the book covers of the Ronald I. Cohen Lucy Maud Montgomery Collection using a digital camera. Photographs of the covers, spines, and identifying interior pages were loaded onto CD-ROMS as tiff files of 300 resolution and sent to the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum for final selection, data wrangling, and annotation.
In a multiple-partner archival project, an electronic archival filing and retrieval system is key. Each institution has its own identification system and no one system is going to provide the information in the form that needs to be retrieved for a virtual exhibition. Under the guidance of the Confederation Centre's technical staff, we adapted FileMakerPro for this purpose, entering by hand over eight hundred different items into individual data screens. The designers created templates for different parts of the exhibition so that selected identifying information could be retrieved from the full data entries from a secure server as appropriate. The data is in French and English, as is the entire site.
See the Credits for a list of the generous individuals, supporting organizations, scholars, archivists, computer analysts, designers, and project team members who helped to create this exhibition. You may also view the Official Launch of this exhibition which took place on August 30, 2002.