|Checking proof pages at the Munguia printing shop
Objective of the Project
The primary objective of this project was to make visually accessible
all of the photographic images shot and developed by Russell Lee for
the 1949 Study of the Spanish Speaking People of Texas. 923 digital
images were created from the original cellulose acetate negatives.
This group of negatives represents a part of a collection of over 27,000
Russell Lee originals, normally restricted for use and maintained in
a secured, climate-control offsite storage facility.
Digitization of the negatives and Web site development
resulted from the joint efforts of the staff of the Center for American
History (CAH) and the Digital Library Services Division (DLSD) of the
University of Texas Libraries. Funding for the project was made available
by a 2004 UTOPIA grant. The Center for American History holds copyrights
for the originals, digital masters, and all derivatives.
File Naming and Metadata Conventions
Each digital image derived from an original negative was given an identifying
file name, corresponding to the classified number arrangement created
by Russell Lee. These numbers, with the addition of the prefix "rwl" and
various suffixes, were adapted as logical identifiers for the images
online. The images have been arranged in galleries according to the
geographical location of each of four segments of the source
collections. Filename and metadata conventions were established by
CAH and DLSD jointly in order to satisfy the criteria of each institutional
unit, and to share knowledge about best practices.
Once gathered, metadata was arranged in three different
digital object organization schemes—Visual Resources Association, (VRA),
Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), and Metadata Object Description Scheme
(MODS). At this time, however, the libraries' server networks cannot
manipulate data encoded in these forms. For now, the core metadata
has been placed in the DLSD Metadata Registry using Dublin Core elements.
This preliminary format will provide a way to retrieve the collection
The machine-readable metadata schemes make possible
the inclusion of lengthy collection descriptions, as well as searchable
information about administrative, descriptive, and technical details
of this project. Administrative data includes custodial history of
the collection, reprographic rights, resource location, selection criteria,
and funding sources. Descriptive data includes subject classification,
key words, and links to finding aids. Technical data includes hardware,
software, file formats, compression ratios, and image enhancement.
The flexibility of the metadata schemes allows for the future addition
of notes to the existing electronic file records.
Equipment and Method
The master images were scanned with an Imacon Flextight 848 simulated
drum scanner, with a batch adapter. The Russell Lee images were scanned
in RGB at 16 bits per channel in order to capture maximum detail.
To retain the three channels of the RGB, but provide a black and
white image without a color cast, a monochrome adjustment was applied
with Photoshop CS. This process was performed on all 923 images.
Two versions—Archival TIFF and Publication TIFF
each master image were created from the raw data captured by the Imacon
scanner. The derivatives—reference images and thumbnails—were
created from the Publication TIFFs. Using Photoshop 7, the reference
images were converted to JPEGs, compressed between 2% to 25% of the
originals, resulting in a 300 dpi resolution and 24 bit depth. The
reference images and linked assets for the Web site have been saved
on various servers, and backed up to magnetic tape.
Post processing of the Archival TIFFs consisted of de-skewing, rotating,
cropping to the original margins, and color correction when necessary.
The output became the Publication TIFF, which remained uncompressed
and in full size. Derivatives were converted into the JPEGs used
for the inspection galleries. The JPEGs in the inspection gallery
are 1024x768 pixels. For the Web site, additional jpegs were created
and managed as separate assets linked to individual pages of the
Web site. Final quality control and adjustments were completed by
the staff at the Center for American History.
The Center for American History is committed to the long-term preservation
of both original negatives and digital derivatives of this collection.
Although not intended as a preservation project, the digitization
of the Russell Lee negatives established a benchmark for the present
condition of the originals. Deterioration of the original celluloid
acetate negatives not visible to the eye became obvious when the
enlarged digital image was displayed on the computer monitors. The
digital images revealed a range of deterioration not unexpected for
negatives that are over 55 years old, and perhaps inevitable despite
the best possible storage conditions.