This winter I had an opportunity to take advantage of the Ancestry.com “Scanning Roadshow” and was impressed with the quality and professionalism of the operation. I was warehousing a large archival box of full-size newspapers and pages, and looking for a way to digitize the documents. One of my favorites is the first edition of The Kansas City Evening Star, September 18, 1891, published just before my grandmother celebrated her first birthday.
The Kansas City Evening Star, September 18, 1891, original issue
found with the papers of Arline Allen Kinsel. Digitized by Ancestry.com at
the St. George Family History Expo February 26, 2010.
Scan Digital, in El Segundo, California does a good job with oversize photographs, but their scanners are not really set up to handle full-size newspaper sheets; they told me they would have to do images in segments, just like I would at home on my flatbed scanner. I wondered how Ancestry.com would handle my project.
When Family History Expo announced that Ancestry would be scanning at St. George, I emailed for a reservation; at the Expo I went to the Ancestry scanning area to sign up for a specific appointment. Two options were available: leave the items and return for pick-up, or stay and watch. Of course, I elected to pick a time when I could observe the process and ask nosy questions.
My huge box was a bit awkward, but protected the papers inside. Each sheet or issue was interleaved with acid-free, buffered paper from my local art store. I discovered the sheets were a bargain compared with buying archival matboard or heavier material. The paper also served as a sling to help move the fragile sheets from box to scanning platform.
Newspapers interleaved with acid-free buffered
paper to act as a sling for moving papers.
The Ancestry scanning station was well equipped with flatbed scanners, sheetfed scanners, and two large copystands. These models were necessary for large or multidimensional objects. My newspapers filled the copy table completely, but with a bit of patience and care, everything was beautifully copied.
Tyler Harman, Ancestry Remote Production Manager for North America, explained the process and equipment to me. The stand uses a 21.6 megapixel Canon EOS-1Ds MarkIII camera (hope I got that right!) mounted on a vertical bar which allows the camera to be moved in relation to the item. The item is placed flat on a solid surface and illuminated evenly from two sides by stationary lights. The camera is tethered to a laptop which handles the scanning operation.
As I readied my newspapers for scanning, or copying, I could see that this is an excellent method for digitizing old and fragile documents. Less handling is involved and contact with scanner glass and lid minimized damage. The process is much quicker, only delayed by the amount of time to slide the paper up, down, or to the side. The high megapixel resolution also results in an ultra-sharp image that is easy to work with.
Due to the large size of each news sheet, some pages were copied in two or more parts, still better than six or more shots. Tyler explained that Ancestry also uses larger scan tables with a taller vertical camera mount which allows for a full-size image to be made.
My session actually expanded because so few attendees were taking advantage of the special event. Lucky me!
When we were finished, I was given my images on an Ancestry.com USB drive, ready to transcribe, upload, and share. I know that some of these papers may be unique, and I look forward to sharing them with other researchers.
Ancestry.com will be bringing their Scanning Roadshow to Burbank for the SCGS Jamboree. If you have documents, photos, or items you would like professionally scanned, this is a generous offer not to be missed. Be sure to register early in order to reserve a session.