Thursday, March 3, 2022

Clarke Historical Library Welcomes a New Member to the Family

 By C.J. Eno

Earlier this year, the Clarke Historical Library was blessed with a new addition to our happy family. While the stork took a little longer than expected (supply chains and such), our newest teammate arrived safe and sound, albeit in some rather large shipping crates. After some diligent prep by Clarke staff, a little expert help from CMU Facilities, as well as the assistance of a cheerful installer/trainer from the vendor (it really does take a village), our little guy was ready to hit the ground running.

So, without further ado, please join the Clarke in welcoming our newest: the Phase One camera system (camera head and motorized column, oversize table and LED lighting).

What a bundle of joy.

Why is the Clarke so excited about a new camera? So happy you asked. For starters, the previous camera no longer worked. The former occupant of this camera room was a completely analog microfilm camera, severely outdated, and no longer repairable. While the Clarke is able to continue providing clients with analog preservation microfilming services with its remaining camera, a replacement was sorely needed.

Our new, fully digital camera is equipped with a 100-megapixel sensor, which allows it to capture images at high resolution and unparalleled clarity. It was designed with cultural heritage projects in mind and offers new imaging options for the Clarke.

The new camera can handle large format materials such as maps and newspapers especially well and can capture oversize documents without compromising any of the essential detail. Additionally, with its specialization in cultural heritage projects, the camera system comes with a clever book cradle that can safely hold in place delicate bound materials for filming. Anyone that has worked with old, delicate/decrepit bound materials knows the feeling of dread as the object slowly falls apart with each subtle jostle. The book cradle, as well as the large surface, helps to mitigate some of these unfortunate hazards of historic preservation.  

Now don’t think this is all about high resolution and document safety; the camera also streamlines our digitizing operations. Working with analog cameras can be slow and tedious for large projects, especially when the number of documents involved is in the hundreds or thousands, as is frequently the case here at the Clarke. The rapid capture photography of the camera provides quick, digitized images ready for post-processing. Considering that the camera is made with aerial-grade aluminum and designed with a minimum of moving parts, that tenure should be a long and happy one.

While the Clarke’s digitizing department has traditionally worked primarily with Michigan newspapers, expanding our largescale digitizing projects into other formats has previously been less than practical. This was unfortunate, as the full scope of the Clarke’s collections goes well beyond Michigan newspapers and covers a wide array of media and formats. With the addition of our new camera, a significant portion of these works can be digitized, not only for the sake of posterity, but for much broader accessibility to those that wish to view these irreplaceable works.