This week I tackled a stack of oversized maps I have been
accumulating. In the process of digitizing documents, I have been using a flat
scanner and a book scanner for the most part. The flat scanner is familiar to
most people; the document is laid flat on a glass screen, the lid is shut, and
the user presses go. For fragile books unable to lay flat or documents that
would be damaged by being squished under the lid of a flat scanner, a book
scanner is more appropriate. The book scanner lights and captures the image of
the document from above, so the book or document can be propped up into a safe
position to be scanned. You can see and use book scanners in the special
collections reading room. However, there are size limitations for both of these
machines. For oversized documents we need to head to the photography room
The photography room has two methods of capturing large
documents. The camera can be mounted on a tripod facing a magnetic whiteboard
and the document can be attached to the whiteboard with a series of magnets.
This method is best for large, flat, single documents that are relatively
durable. Maps, posters, and similar documents are captured best using this
method. However, sometimes documents are unable to be hung up on the
whiteboard. Perhaps they are very fragile and might rip with the force of
gravity or perhaps they are attached to a larger volume and cannot be removed.
In these cases the camera can be mounted on a large vertical arm above a table
where the document can be placed. This method is similar to the book scanner,
but on a larger scale.
This week I used both methods to photograph oversized maps
of Southern California, in particular Ontario and the greater San Bernardino
County area. A few of the maps were glued into a volume full of land deeds and
folded out of the book. Because they could not be removed, I unfolded the maps
on the table and photographed them from above using the vertical arm. This was
difficult because a couple of these maps were huge and even the standard oversized
methods had trouble capturing the entirety of the document. The vertical arm holding
the camera is quite tall, and although I’m quite tall I eventually had to use a
step stool to reach the camera. Even still I couldn’t capture the entirety of
one of these maps! I couldn’t believe it. However, after some maneuvering I was
finally able to get a clear image of the large maps.
Next I used the tripod and magnetic whiteboard to photograph
some of the single maps. As you can imagine, this process is much easier and
faster than using the vertical arm. After I finished photographing the maps I used
software to edit, crop and convert the image into a usable document. Eventually
these images will be uploaded to the Claremont Colleges Digital Library. Keep
an eye out for these maps, as some of them are quite intricate!