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Scanning for a New Life in Print

(December 2011) posted on Tue Dec 13, 2011

How large-format scanners are driving new demand for print services.


By Michael Antoniak

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“Since March we’ve probably processed as many as 20 research requests through the scanner.” says Ball. “When we get those requests now, we scan the original, keep one copy of the file for our archives and send them a copy on disk. My ultimate goal is to one day digitize all the key drawings in our collection.”

For an ink-on-linen shop drawing from 1908, for instance, Ball scanned details from a Griffin image designed by architects Palmer & Hornbostew for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.

Another example: She’s currently in the process of digitizing portions of an archive of approximately 50,000 drawings from the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company. In its day, the Chicago-based firm (which operated from 1900 through 1954) was a leading provider of baked-form clay used to decorate commercial buildings and skyscrapers in the early 20th century. To help its clients install its products, Northwestern’s draftsmen created meticulous full-scale shop drawings to identify where and how each component fit together and should be secured to a building. The extensive collection of drawings was donated to the museum in 1982.

“The later drawings have yellowed and become quite fragile,” because of the acidity of paper then in use, says Ball, “We encase them in Mylar sleeves then process them directly through the scanner’s feeder.”

These drawings and blueprints are scanned in color at 300 dpi. “Some of the drawings use different color inks to identify certain things in the designs,” she notes. “Scanning in color really allows you to see the documents as they were intended. With the scans, it’s much easier to see fragile elements that have faded and could be missed, like pencil notes or some of the finer lines in the designs.” When touch-up or editing is required, Ball handles this in Colortrac’s SmartWorks Pro software.

On another project, Bailey scanned blueprints for some of the old S.H Kress five-and-dime stores for a graduate student studying how store lunch counters were designed to maintain the segregation of races in the pre-Civil Rights era. Ball was able to provide scans of several full-sized blueprints, as well as interior photos of the completed structures, all processed through the GX+656.

“With the scanner, we can now easily provide architectural firms and researchers whatever they need from our collection, and they can print the scans themselves at full size, if needed,” says Ball.


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