ESSEX-UK-L ArchivesArchiver > ESSEX-UK > 2002-07 > 1026398405
From: Rod Neep <>
Subject: Original images of records on CD
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 15:40:05 +0100
In article <000001c2287e$c30a7cf0$>, Noel Clark
>Those of you who are familiar with the 1891 will know that
>all the ages have a line through them (presumably done when the census
>was being analysed). On the microfiche version, this line is usually of
>a different intensity than the age, and so the age underneath the line
>can be deciphered. On the CD version, both seem to be of the same
>intensity, making it very hard to decipher. It would seem that the
>process of digitisation loses something in terms of "contrast" quality.
>Quite frankly, I would think that the problem might be far worse with
>the 1841, where the contrast on the film version is already pretty poor.
That's right. Bear in mind that filming of those original records is a
bitonal process. Black and white. It isn't like a normal photograph with
shades of grey. Therefore grey pencil loses out unless the contrast is
set exactly right. The 1841 census was recorded in pencil.
>Which brings me to a pet gripe of mine.
>It really bugs me that when individuals or FH societies buy films of
>parish registers, etc, from county Record Offices, many ROs simply make
>another print from an original LDS/Genealogical Society of Utah film
>made a number of years ago - often in the 1980s. Both camera and film
>technologies have improved in the intervening 15 years or so (one such
>example being that over 90% of faded and illegible entries in registers
>can be deciphered under UV light), and computer enhancement techniques
>are now available. Goodness, even a good photocopy machine can be used
>to enhance images these days -
Ah yes... but a photocopy is a *greyscale* process. Those originals are
pure black and white, and there is no way that the black can be
intensified. If contrast were to be changed, then you could only change
black down to grey.... you can't make black blacker. Right?
I do have to agree with you about "new" films being made from old used
ones though. One of the worst places that a film or fiche gets used is
in a record office or library, because the fiche/film readers are not
sufficiently maintained. Dust makes scratches on the film. Lots of
scratches! Those scratches show up very horribly on a film made from the
damaged film. In some cases, so much so that they are virtually
illegible. I have seen "new" films where there are so many scratches
that the text can be hardly read.
I can relate an interesting example here. I was offered a set of census
films to scan by a record office. Brilliant! Let's produce them on CD,
without the great cost of having to buy the films from the PRO. All that
is needed is the cost of scanning the films. Wonderful! Right?
Unfortunately.... no. The films had been used. There were so many
scratches on them that the digitisation process picked up as black lines
that a "product" would have been unsatisfactory. OK as a determined
"researchers tool", but not as a decent product on CD. After digitising,
Each page image must have had a hundred or more fine black lines across
They had another copy of the films... great... lets have those! Wrong.
The "backup" film had been copied from the first.
So I was left with a choice. Digitise them anyway, or drop it. Very
reluctantly I had to make the decision not to put out an inferior
product on CD (from Archive CD Books).
>I reckon we all get a bit of a
>raw deal when ROs just regurgitate old films. I realise the financial
>constraints, but I personally would be willing to pay a lot more for
>something that is actually usable.
That fits in with my views of producing a better product. ;-)
>I am a transcriber for the National Burials Index project, and the
>usefulness of many parish registers in this project is diminished simply
>because of the filming technology used.
Filming technology has not improved significantly. Digitising technology
has. But there is an inherent "problem" here. Record Offices see film as
being of "archival quality" whereas digital isn't. They prefer film for
*storage* and *archival* purposes.
Digital is useful (to us!) for a different reason and a different
purpose. The keywords are *accessibility* and *availability*. In simple
terms, very few people can either:
1. conveniently go to a place where there are films or originals
2. buy the films for one county for one year's census
at a cost of several thousand pounds.
Whereas many people can put a CD into their home computer, no matter
where they are in the world.
But... you see, there is a conflict. The record offices want film, and
we want digital. So we are left with a situation where there is film of
many of the major records (parish registers, censuses, etc.) but not
digital copies of those original records. (Don't get confused with
products such as the LDS 1881 census CDs, which are *transcripts* in
text format, and real images of the original primary records).
Film is pure black and white. Digital can easily be grey scale. In other
words, for this type of material, infinitely superior! But there is a
cost. A huge cost in fact.
An example: Here at Archive CD Books we have a record office that would
have us put a scanner in there tomorrow to digitise the originals of all
of the wills for the county and all of the parish registers. A great
opportunity. Let's look at just the wills....
cost of scanner and computer to put there GBP 13,000
one year in person costs (wages) 15,000
Add to that the cost of producing the CDs, or (better?) an on-line
indexed retrieval system for the images (tens of thousands of pounds)
and the total cost of the project would be huge.
Now a simple question. Could those costs be covered by selling either
CDs or on-line images? Obviously the answer is a resounding no.
Therefore could other funding be obtained for the project, in the form
of grants, lottery funding, etc? The answer to that is "possibly, but
very, very difficult".
..... and, the record office still want the digital images transferred
to film for archival purposes. We can do that, but at even more cost.
We have the technology.... but the funds to do it?
ARCHIVE CD BOOKS -
A project to reproduce old books on CD for genealogists
and pay for the restoration of books in Record Offices, Libraries, etc.
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