My own mini-scanfests

When you come back home after a productive research trip to an archive or library do you often end up with a stack of photocopies?

Yes, me too.

I use my digital camera whenever I can but sometimes it just isn’t possible to take photos. Sometimes the repository doesn’t allow it, and other times the documents are folded up so well that it is just easier to get the experts to photocopy them. When I get home I tend to leave them for a while in the ‘filing’ pile, and the longer they stay there the harder it is to get around to dealing with them.

For me a major part of the post-research trip process is scanning the photocopies. A piece of paper is no good to me if it fades or gets tea spilled on it, or the laser toner sticks to something other than the paper, or it goes up in a bushfire.

To address the post-research filing issue I bought one of those multi-function printers. It prints in colour and black-and-while, it scans, it photocopies, and it faxes. It’s a marvel of modern technology. When I chose it I made sure of two things -

  1. it prints and scans both sides of the paper (duplex)
  2. it has a document feeder

The duplex requirement is fairly self-explanatory. The document feeder means I can put a stack of pages in the top, press some buttons to tell it to scan to my laptop, and away it goes. All I have to do is press the OK button on the laptop, and then I can get on with something else. If both sides of the page needs to be scanned I can select that option and the pages are scanned in the correct order.

Of course, at some stage I have to rename the files to something more meaningful than SCAN0001.jpg or whatever I’ve chosen as the default, but I can do that later, and sitting down.

My scanner is not much bigger than A4, so A3 photocopies are a problem. There are a couple of solutions – perhaps you have others?

  1. scan each half at a time, making two images that can then be joined together (or not!) in your photo software
  2. photocopy the A3 at a library or somewhere with a big photocopier, reducing it to A4, and then scan the A4 photocopy. Yes, some quality is lost, but it takes much less time and is more likely to result in a useable scan than option 1, which I rarely get around to doing.

Another important part of the process is to write the citation on the photocopy before scanning it, if I hadn’t already done it at the time of the photocopying. If I’ve requested copies at State Records NSW I pay for them before I leave and so this labelling must be done at home, preferably the same day while the file is still fresh in my mind.

Then there’s the analysing, data entry, filing into my family binders, and all of the other tasks that give meaning to whatever I’ve found, but that’s another story.

What do you do with your photocopies when you get them home?

Sharing documents on the web

I’ve been playing with a couple of sites that allow you to share documents. Initially I had to find a way to share Powerpoint slides on a blog, and my solution was to use Slideshare, a free website that allows you to share Powerpoint slides.

Slideshare is simple to use and works well. You can upload presentations quickly and easily, and make them public or restricted access, by being given a URL that you then share with those you wish to have access to the presentation. Viewers can leave comments, although if your presentation is public these may be spam, a common hazard.

The winner, though, is Scribd.

My Scribd profile

With Scribd I can share other kinds of documents, not just Powerpoint, so I can keep the slides and the handouts together. PDFs, Word, Excel, so far I haven’t found a format I can’t upload, although I admit I haven’t tried very hard. It does what I need so far.

Scribd upload

As you can see, you can import Google Docs and even create one from scratch by typing or cut-and-pasting into the text box. I haven’t tried either of these yet. I can see why sharing a Google Doc here would be easier for the people I know who inexplicably have trouble with Google Docs, particularly if you just want them to see it and not update it.

Others share documents, academic papers, even whole books on Scribd, and you can download the documents and follow the uploaders to see what else they come up with. You can also add documents of interest to collections so you can more easily find them again later, without having to download them.

You can also upload documents that you want to sell. I may do this in the future.

Have a look at Scribd and let me know what you think.

Follow an archive day on Twitter

Today is Follow An Archive day on Twitter. Twitter users around the world are tweeting about their favourite archives, and archives around the world are tweeting about themselves, using the hashtag #followanarchive.

I’ve learned about a lot of archives I didn’t know about, and a lot that I did know about but didn’t know they used Twitter. Here are a couple of examples:

@BaselineLPMA  NSW Land and Property Management Authority Heritage Information

website at http://www.baseline.nsw.gov.au, which pulls together the information of most interest to historians and genealogists.

@naagovau National Archives of Australia

website at http://www.naa.gov.au. The National Archives started only their Twitter account today and had 100 followers by the end of the day!

@followanarchive Follow An Archive

website at http://followanarchive.blogspot.com/ which lists all the archives taking part.

I’ve been following this on and off all day, and it has been so much fun learning about new archives (new to me, anyway) and seeing what they are all up to. It’s after 11pm here in Sydney now, so no more Twittering for me. The Americans are just waking up so it will keep getting better!

Have a look: http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23followanarchive