What is the ORHDP?

Funded by a donation from a private B.C.-based foundation and based out of the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia, the ORHDP was created to improve the accessibility of historical documents and photographs found in museums and archives in B.C.’s Southern Interior by scanning them and putting them online. To do this, a mobile digitization lab was formed, comprised of two laptops, two flatbed scanners, one book scanner, and four enthusiastic UBC students.

 

Osoyoos and District Museum and Archives

Osoyoos and District Museum and Archives was the third over-night trip, and my last on-site collection trip of the season.

Alex and I worked on scanning the textual documents of the Katie Lacey and Kruger Family Fonds, while Sharon migrated finding-aids for them, as well as approximately 1500 pre-scanned photographs. We created more original scans here than at any other repository: over 1400 scans in three days!

The Kruger Family Fond was largely comprised of personal letters sent to the Krugers, one of the earliest colonist families to settle in the area. The Katie Lacey Fond contained primarily personal and business letters, illustrations, and manuscripts. Lacey herself was a writer and a founder of the Osoyoos Museum. A large portion of the documents were too large for our scanners, so two scans often had to be made for each page. Lucky for us, the museum staff had a coffee machine they graciously gave us access to.

I personally enjoyed peering at Osoyoos’ museum collections, especially their old pianos and insect collection.  I also got the opportunity to make friends with our kind hosts’ many pets, including (but not limited to) Obsidian the cat.

The Katie Lacey Fond was just too dense for us to complete within our three-day term, but interest has been expressed in loaning some of the collection to the project to complete at the university.  Here’s hoping!

 

 

Keremeos Museum

The site visit to the Keremeos Museum was the team’s second overnight trip this summer. The Museum was in the process of moving from its original building (an old holding cell) to its new location: the former Keremeos Masonic Hall. The building was quite spacious and came with a piano, much to Eamon’s delight. On our second day in Keremeos, Eamon and I were interviewed and photographed by a reporter for a local newspaper, so we’re looking forward to seeing what she writes about the project!

Our three days there were very productive: we captured over 900 original scans of locally published books, photographs, negatives, and documents. Sharon was also able to migrate the museum’s large collection of pre-existing scans of photographs and their relevant metadata records, so overall it was quite the successful trip!

Evenings were spent going for walks along the Similkameen River and listening to our host’s fascinating stories from his life as a trapper. We also made our fair share of furry friends on this trip: Buck, our hosts’ dog, who showed his enthusiasm for us kicking a ball for him by twirling on himself and Clochette the kitten who came to visit with her owner and explored the Masonic Hall.

Experience Profile – Emma Smith

I’m an undergrad entering my second year as a Psychology major. I’m enjoying taking a variety of courses, mainly concentrated in the social sciences, with the goal of going into education and/or research.

I’ve also, in no small part due to this project, been looking into a career as a librarian!

My specialties for this project are metadata and graphic design. I perform both editing and basic metadata for the files we scan, but I prefer the spreadsheet manipulation and the structured, almost menial tasks on the metadata side of things. I also have a bad habit of picking up graphic design resources online, so I’ve more recently volunteered to help out with branding and other design needs for the project.

I’m also on the autism spectrum, and have found this job to be very well suited to some of the challenges I face. I work with a small, friendly team; I perform tasks with clear end goals and specific steps; I can travel around the Okanagan with the structure of a job; and I can indulge a special interest in libraries and museums.

I’ll be continuing my work part-time into the 2017-2018 school year. I’m looking forward to working with files from more collections and gaining more work experience!

Armstrong Spallumcheen Museum and Art Gallery

Art and archives … our team at work

Our project necessarily involves forging relationships with people working in the repositories of the Southern Interior; I enjoy meeting new people when we go off-site to a new museum, and occasionally I meet someone who leaves a lasting impression.

Such was the case when we visited the Armstrong Museum and Art Gallery. Our team (Alex, Emma, me, our leader Paige Hohmann, and UBC Vancouver Archivist Chris Hives) arrived early at the location, so we took time to enjoy an atmospheric cup of coffee at a local haunt. When the museum’s doors opened at 10, we were greeted and ushered into our working area — to my delight, we were to work in the art gallery part of the building.

Next on the agenda for me was meeting Linda Nadon, a woman somewhat my senior, and the local tech expert in charge of the museum’s archival records database. It soon became clear to me that Linda knew her way around the database and that there wouldn’t be too much work for me to do — she took charge of the migration and I was able to leave to work at home after an hour on site! Linda revealed that she was self-educated in archives database management; it was only later that I learned that she had completed an undergraduate degree in biology and a masters in statistics, in addition to other formal education. When I asked Linda what she would say to young women pursuing studies in a technical field, she offered,

My advice is to study anything that interests you, and study a variety of things. You are more likely to end up working at something you are interested in, if that is what you have studied.  And a varied background makes it more likely that you can find some sort of work.  There are lots of different avenues into technology. You don’t have to have the kind of brain that works best with binary decisions, there are lots of image and sound ways to interact with technology. Even if you intend to dive in deep into structured technology, try balancing this by using the creative side of your brain.  I studied art for a few years and I paint and draw.  This hobby has helped me with the work I do in our photo archives in the restoration of digital copies of photographs. It also helps me solve problems in a non-linear manner. 

As an older person with an Arts background studying computer science, I found Linda’s words inspiring, and am thinking of asking her more about her work with statistics. Thus, our repository visit opened new horizons for me — an outcome I could scarcely have anticipated.

Migrating Content

I’m the “Geek Squad” of our project: as a computer science student, it’s my task to scope out the digital records and scanned documents of the community repositories we visit, and migrate these to an Excel spreadsheet so that our team can easily check and supplement their records for items they’ve scanned. Every museum has unique holdings, and the time it can devote to scanning and archival description depends upon its staff and financial resources. Some museums run on volunteers, whereas others have professional archivists. Many maintain Microsoft Access databases with metadata – data about data, or in other words, records describing the items (mostly photos) that we will scan. Others use software written especially for museums, or simply keep their records in a Word document.

My job on arrival at a repository is to talk to the resident tech expert about the museum’s record-keeping software and practices. I copy any scans the Museum has on site to our external hard drive, and export any metadata to an Excel document. Easy-peasy, right? Yes, usually, but when I have to extract data from a Word or text document, I sometimes feel like an archaeologist trying to get an ancient script to give up its secrets!

Finally, to complete the migration process, I “map” the fields in the repository’s database to the terms that we use. We follow the Qualified Dublin Core (DC) standard for archival description, which specifies the metadata fields we use … for more information, see http://dublincore.org/. For the formatting of data, we refer to Resource Description and Access (RDA), a set of guidelines for cataloguing intended for libraries and other cultural institutions. The repositories we work with, however, don’t necessarily follow the same rules as we do — hence the need to “massage” the data.

Helping with data migration has proved to be one of the most interesting and challenging parts of my position, and I have a hunch that this skill will serve me well in my future career!

Summerland Museum and Archives

Summerland was our third site visit and first overnight trip. It also happens to be Sharon’s hometown!

We worked in the back room of the Summerland Museum and Heritage Society, surrounded by boxes of archived materials. We quickly got to work on the pre-selected photographs, which came with measurements and plenty of information ready to be plugged into our metadata spreadsheets. Also in the collection was a Women’s Institute minute book, which Alex took to scanning using our Xcanex portable scanner. We captured over 500 original scans during the course of our visit.

While Sharon was able to easily make her way home, Alex and I stayed overnight at the home of the Summerland Museum’s archivist in Penticton. We enjoyed a couple of meals at downtown restaurants and an evening walk by the water. We even spotted the SS Sicamous, which I recognized from several photos we had scanned earlier, now converted into a museum and permanently docked on Penticton’s shore. It was a great little moment of seeing history come to life!

As per what quickly became my tradition, I also picked up several souvenirs from Summerland. I was happy to find that there was a branch of the Okanagan Regional Library just a hop away from the museum, and I picked up as many books as my travelling messenger bag could handle. Pictured here are the ones yet to be returned!

Experience Profile – Alex Neijens

Hello! I’m a graduate student entering the second year of my dual Masters degree in library and archives. Working for the ORHDP has been an amazing opportunity because it allowed me to get some hands-on experience in archives and project management and allowed me to travel throughout the region and learn more about its history.

During my time here, I’ve assisted in the management of the project by writing project documentation, acting as a liaison for the team while we were out on site visits, and checking the quality of each and every scan we created and/or edited to make sure that they are all ready to be put online.

My other main task is to develop the metadata for each of our scans so that they will all be searchable when they are put online. While we try to take as much information as we can from each museum or archive, sometimes we have to create metadata off of our own observations or research when the information made available to us is not enough.

While I will sadly be leaving at the end of August to return to my studies in Vancouver, I’ve really enjoyed being able to visit each of the museums we’ve worked with and being a part of such a fun project!

Historic O’Keefe Ranch

The Historic O’Keefe Ranch outside of Vernon was the second location for on-site collection.

It was decided that only a two-person team made up of Alex and myself were required for scanning the chosen objects at this site. We set up in a main room of the Greenhow Museum, in which we were able to discuss our project with passing museum patrons, and glance around at the artifacts.

We worked together on scanning the Ranch’s collection of magic lantern slides: glass projection slides from the early 20th century. Though most slides had cardboard borders that prevented the glass from scraping our scanners, protective sheets had to be used for some of the more deteriorated slides. The slides mostly contained World War I illustrations, photographs of Ireland, England, Egypt, an English Royal visit to India, and scenes from the Bible. Despite no local photography, it was an impressive collection.

The slides required multiple scans, one for the reflective border, one for the transparent image, in the end it amounted to over 650 scans, a grand total of 395 objects. 631 more images and the associated data were migrated from the Museum’s computer. Many of these were the photographs and textual documents of the O’Keefes, noting other historic families of the Okanagan Valley.

Naturally, lunch breaks were spent wandering the ranch, so I got to make friends with some baby goats.

Our Equipment

Due to the nature of the project, the biggest requirement for the equipment to be purchased was that everything needed to be easily packed up and transportable from place to place. At the same time, however, we did not want to sacrifice being able to capture high-quality scans in favour of portability. After some research, we settled on the following equipment which combines quality and portability:

Dell Laptops

We have acquired two Dell Precision 7710 laptops for the project. Both laptops are equipped with Adobe Photoshop, which we are using to edit our scans to prepare them for online access as well as long-term preservation.

 


Epson Scanners

We have also acquired two Epson Perfection V800 Photo scanners to take with us on our site visits. These machines take high-quality scans of loose sheets of paper, photographs, film, and negatives. Because of the high resolution we scan items at, scans can take anywhere from 60 seconds to 5 minutes!

 

XcaneX Book and Document Scanner

The other equipment we use for scanning is the XcaneX Book and Document Scanner, which can be used for larger documents or bound volumes. The resulting scans are a lower resolution than those created by the Epson Scanners, but capturing a scan takes only a few seconds per page. The height of the scanner’s camera is adjustable to easily capture a variety of document sizes. The scanner also has some Optical Character Recognition capabilities which allows for scanned texts to become searchable.

Audio Cassette Converter

The Ion Tape Express Plus Tape-to-Digital Converter & Player will allow us to convert audio cassettes to a digital format. It plays both chrome and normal tapes and works both using batteries as well as through USB.

Experience Profile – Eamon Riordan-Short

I’m a biology student entering the third year of my undergrad. While the ORHDP may not be relevant to my studies, it’s a fantastic opportunity to explore local heritage and history.

As the project has gone on, I’ve fallen into my niche on the team as somewhat of a Photoshop specialist. Although my coworkers take on just as much editing as I do, I’ve had several years experience with Adobe Photoshop and similar software while creating artwork, and I’ve learned one or two tricks of the trade.

Naturally, I can’t get very creative in the editing process since we want to make our images represent the objects as accurately as possible. That said, there are always new hurdles!

Some photographs or documents are too large for our flatbed scanners, some won’t lie flat enough for our overhead scanner. When this is the case, some clever tricks are necessary in post-production, and Photoshop answers the call. Tweaking the action sets that help us automate our editing and devising faster and more specific processes are my favourite tasks to tackle. The sooner things are processed, the sooner they’re available to the public!

As of now, I’m set to be with the project for the duration of the next academic year.