Digitization of Saint Mary’s College Photographic Archive

We get all kinds of inquiries for digitization services, but sometimes the circumstances make us cringe!  In this case, Martin Cohen, the archivist at Saint Mary’s College of California, called for a quote to scan 3,300 photographic prints ranging in size from 2x2 inches to 4x10 feet. It seems they had previously scanned all these prints themselves over a period of many years, but after a server crash, they were unable to restore the files from backups, so all had been lost.

This rare collection of photographic prints covers the entire 150-year history of the college. We presented three different pricing proposals, each using a different camera/scanner. They approved a mid-priced option that included scanning everything at 36 megapixels, and producing both archival TIFF files, and derivative JPEGS ready to import to their existing image database.  Martin’s team was able to sort the prints into five different size categories, which made it easier for us to batch them in scanning, and saved them some money.  They also provided us with a spreadsheet with all their image identifiers that we were able to use for custom filenaming of the scans.

In addition to the scanning, we have consulted with the archive to assure they have put in place a more robust imaging and backup system.  We also keep a copy of the entire project on our servers for a guaranteed time after completion of each job.  Best practices call for having three copies of every important file, and at least one of those should be kept offsite.  Many new cloud based backup offerings are available at reasonable prices, so every institution can make sure files are accessible well into the future.

This photo shows the 1909 baseball team: