Important AND Fun

sylvester_manorDLTS is currently involved in a project to digitize a significant portion of Fales Library’s Sylvester Manor Archive, thanks to a grant from the Gardiner Foundation. Sylvester Manor is the home of the original European settlers on Shelter Island in eastern Long Island, New York, created in 1652 with the arrival of Nathaniel and Grissell Sylvester. The Sylvester Manor Archive contains documents dating from its European settlement to the late-20th century.

In addition to being an important collection to preserve and digitize, the collection has some beautiful material that’s fun to digitize. Above, you’ll see an example of one of the wonderful photographs.

Digitization Efficiencies

Pre-Cropped ImageCropped ImageAt DLTS, we are always working on making our processes more efficient. On the digitization side, much of our work requires painstaking efforts that only skilled photographers can perform. Some of it, however, is tedious and repetitive, and a great candidate for automation.

At long last, one of these processes looks like it will be automated very soon: cropping. We are testing an auto-crop tool, which is comprised of a complex series of actions in Photoshop. This tool will work with both scanner and hi-res created materials. The images need to be photographed in an extremely specific way to be a candidate for auto-cropping, so it won’t work for every project, but it will still save us a lot of time.

A big thanks to Soumi Sarkar, one of our student photographers, who worked with a few pointers from the Web along with guidance from Chris Edwards at the Getty to create this tool.

Collecting Photography from the Arab World

A photo of four unknown women in Egypt, the year also unknown, from the Yasser Alwan Collection at NYUAD. Courtesy Akkasah, the Centre for Photography, NYUAD
A photo of four unknown women in Egypt, the year also unknown, from the Yasser Alwan Collection at NYUAD. Courtesy Akkasah, the Centre for Photography, NYUAD

Akkasah, the Center for Digital Photography at NYUAD, has been collecting photography from the Arab world. Under DLTS’s direction, they are digitizing these images, which DLTS will then preserve and publish through finding aids. To read about Akkasah, please see this recent article.

Indian Ocean site launched

Indian Ocean Digital CollectionWe are pleased to announce the launch of the Indian Ocean Digital Collection, a site that gathers together a diverse group of materials from the region. This site is a collaboration of several departments: site vision and content curation from Charlotte Priddle of Fales and Tim Johnson of Social Sciences and Humanities, funding for digitization from NYU Abu Dhabi, and digitization and publication from DLTS. This site represents the first substantial library collection that focuses on the Indian Ocean as a whole.

At launch, the site contains 30 books. We will soon add maps, and within a few months, we will also add postcards. We’re also working on some features to enhance discovery. We will roll out the new features and additional content as soon as it is ready.

Special thanks to:

  • Laura, who spun up this site with lightning speed. This was possible because
  • Alberto built a flexible Web site framework that we’ve been using starting with Arabic Collections Online, and
  • Kate published 30 books without breaking a sweat, and
  • Rasan helped us deal with some anomalies about those books, and
  • Joe staged those books for publication, and
  • Melitte’s team digitized those books in the first place, and last but not least,
  • Eric was there from the beginning to make sure everything went through the process from start to finish.

A shout-out to Flannon, who helped us deal with anomalies between development and production and managed the Apache restarts.

Videos from the Armenian struggle

Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 3.45.26 PM (1)NYU Abu Dhabi has acquired archival footage from Bars Media Documentary Film Studio, chronicling the struggles in the hotspots of the former Soviet Union. Bars Media (“Bars” means “simple” or “clear”), one of the first independent film companies in Armenia, specializes in making documentaries about human stories, culture, history and other social issues.

DLTS has just finished QC of this collection, which was digitized in Armenia according to our specifications but required a fair amount of remediation on our end to make sure it was ready for preservation. The material is intense and often difficult to watch, but watch it we did, to ensure the quality of the end product.

Preparing for vendors

We do a lot of digitization of print materials in-house, but there are occasions when we engage the services of a vendor. Packaging the materials to be transported to the vendor is an important task, and one that involves people working together across departments.

A recent example is the Moloney sheet music collection from Tamiment-Wagner. Preparation for digitization involved extensive organizational work by individuals from Tamiment-Wagner, DLTS, and Preservation. The resulting package was well formed and ready to go.

Format Challenges


We just finished digitizing a collection from Tamiment-Wagner of photos from  Camp Kinderland. The original photos were on glass negatives, which posed an interesting challenge in digitizing. We had to reset our camera to handle this format. Now, as we process the digitized images, we are finding that our usual format for master files, TIFF6, is not ideal for these images because we will lose information. We are currently exploring our options. This is just an example of the type of challenges our digitization team faces in preserving materials of various formats.