A Larger Than Life View of Russell Lee

The variety of projects is always one of the more exciting parts of working here. For a Russell Lee exhibit that is currently on display at the Redwood Library & Athenæum in Newport, RI, we received a request through the Wittliff Collections to digitize two images of the photographer Russell Lee at a scale large enough to cover two walls in the show.

The dimensions of the photographs to digitize are 4.25″ x 3.25″ and 13.375″ x 7.875″ respectively, so creating a digital file from these with a high enough resolution to print at a final size of over 8′ at 100 px/in isn’t something even our best equipment can manage in a single shot. To solve this problem, we captured each photograph in smaller sections and then combined those together to create a seamless final image. The smaller photograph is a combination of 6 images in Photoshop for the final digital file, and the larger took only 2 images.

A photograph prepared on a copystand

One of the photographs of Russell Lee prepared on the capture station.

Once we had our final image, we knew we wanted to see for ourselves what they could look like when printed for the wall. This is where we love having the help of our digital technicians to demonstrate!

Two panels of a photographic print being held up near stairs

Digital technicians holding two panels of a print side by side outside of Alkek Library.

Two students on side and one student sitting above a long, narrow print on the floor

A cropped section of the smaller original photograph on the floor, with students for scale.  From the left: Jessica Henriquez, Reba Jenson, and Allen Garza.

 

Tech Reflect: Lucy Lippard Notebooks

Tech Reflect is a platform for Digital & Web Services technicians to look-back on a particular project and share their experiences, thoughts, and lessons learned.

By Austen Villacis, Digital Imaging Technician

Occasionally, requests will come in from Texas State faculty for special projects. One such request came from Dr. Erina Duganne, an Associate Professor of Art History in the College of Art and Design, and included a collection of 5 personal notebooks from art critic Lucy Lippard. The notebooks date from 1983 to 1984, and range in size, the largest being 4″x6″ inches.

After meeting with Dr. Duganne to examine the materials in-person and discuss the goals for the project, the first step was to build a capture station with the following things in mind:

Quality: Dr. Duganne might use some of these images for an exhibit at Tufts University in 2020 and an accompanying exhibition catalog.
Efficiency: The total number of pages in the notebooks in over 1000, so it’s essential that the capture station is efficient.
Careful Handling: These nearly 40-year-old materials are on loan, not for the library to keep.
Versatility: The notebooks themselves vary in size, so I need the capture station to be versatile.

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Tech Reflect: Civilian Conservation Corps cassette tapes

Tech Reflect is a platform for Digital & Web Services technicians to look-back on a particular project and share their experiences, thoughts, and lessons learned.

By: Zachary Johnson, Digital A/V Technician

The Civilian Conservation Corps Project (CCC) was founded in 1933, ending in 1942. It was a government-funded organization originally meant for unemployed, unmarried men between the age of 18 and 25. The age limit was eventually moved up to 28 (although most camps didn’t care if you were 16 or 17). FDR created the CCC as a part of his ‘New Deal’ in order to provide money to families that were in desperate need of cash during the great depression

The jobs done by the CCC enrollees were mostly construction, but that is not all they were known for doing. They were truckers (construction & transportation), medical staff (assistants to doctors, nurses, and dentists), hairdressers, miners in rock quarries (although they were sometimes used to help find artifacts in historically significant dig sites), and cooks (enrollees who made breakfast, lunch, and dinner), or cashiers at concession stands in the rec hall (for extra cash, not as their main/sole job). Each enrollee was paid around $27 a month, but they only received $5 and the rest was sent to their families to help them get through the depression, though the amount paid could vary from year to year. The CCC operated mostly through national parks and was run by the U.S. military, although enrollees did not have quite as many rules and responsibilities as military personnel had. As a for instance, they still had to make their beds in the morning and have them inspected, but they didn’t have to do things like saluting to the flag.

Dr. Ron Brown has approximately 42 cassette tapes of oral interviews conducted in 1991-1993 while he was working on a history of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps in Mesa Verde National Park. The Mesa Verde site is significant because unlike most CCC sites, most of the documents and archives related to CCC remained on site and were not sent to the National Archives. Persons who were members of the CCC in Mesa Verde were interviewed for their recollections. Shortly after he completed the interviews, he became a full-time administrator and did not return to the project until Jan. 1, 2018, when he returned to full-time faculty status. The interviews were collected on cassette tapes of good quality at the time. His interview equipment was better than average quality at the time, and the interview cassettes have not been run since the early 1990s.

The tapes are historically significant documents that are important for his own research and would be of use to the Texas State Archives as well as to the MVNP Research Center in Colorado. The tapes were captured, edited, and given back to Dr. Brown in the months of October and November 2018 by Zachary Johnson. After the digital capture, the physical tapes will be given to the university archiving department at Texas State University library, while the digital copies will be transcribed and given back to Dr.Brown for his project.

How I Created Digital Files from Legacy Technology

  1. Check to make sure all the recording devices work properly
  2. Check the condition of the physical tape
  3. Record the audio on each side of the tape
  4. Edit/clean up the audio
  5. Turn in for Quality Control (QC)

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Without Documents

In 2016, Digital & Web Services and the Wittliff Collections worked together to create an exhibit based on material in the Dick J. Reavis collection. The National Tour of Texas is an interactive website based on Dick J. Reavis ’s 1987 year long journey driving every highway in Texas.

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More recently Dick Reavis gave us permission to digitize and make available his 1978 book Without Documents, which sets out to examine the history of undocumented aliens in the United States. It examines the history of immigration, and in particular the history of Mexican immigration.

The entire book is now freely available in our Digital Collections Repository https://digital.library.txstate.edu/handle/10877/7761

 

The issues examined in the book are not only relevant forty years later, but have taken center stage in our current political debates. Dick Reavis was quite prescient in his final statement in the forward:

“For a variety of reasons, it is unlikely that Congress or federal agencies will do anything soon to resolve the question of undocumented immigration, or to alleviate the problems of immigrants themselves. Legislation currently pending in the Senate and House is largely of value for vote-getting purposes, and it is likely that undocumented immigration will continue to be an element in campaigning into the future. Therefore, this book should make important reading for a long time to come.”

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Tech Reflect: It’s Only Rock N’ Roll Newspapers

Tech Reflect is a platform for Digital & Web Services technicians to look-back on a particular project and share their experiences, thoughts, and lessons learned.

Last November, nearly a full run of 41 issues of It’s Only Rock N’ Roll (IORNR), an alternative San Antonio-focused, alternative punk and New Wave rock music magazine published from 1979 to 1982, were donated to The Wittliff Collections here at Texas State University, adding to the new Texas Music collecting scope of The Wittliff. The newspaper was a labor of love for its managing editor and publisher, music journalist Ron Young, who wrote for the San Antonio Light and San Antonio Express-News. For more information on Young and the newspaper, please see this 2017 article on the San Antonio Express News’s MySanAntonio.com and this 2016 article in the San Antonio Express News includes more information on the newspaper.

My primary tasks were:

  1. Handling with extreme care
  2. Photographing each page
  3. Post-processing and output
  4. Move files into the Wittliff Collections’ shared drive for ingest into institutional repository

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Picking Up a Fallen Photograph with Photoshop

When photographing exhibitions in the Wittliff Collections‘ Writer’s Room, our focus has been documenting the exhibit cases, as seen in this past blog post, but the recent Legends of Tejano Music exhibition had materials on display everywhere! While finalizing my documentation photographs, I decided to create a panorama from multiple images to better showcase the details along the back walls. Unfortunately, one of the photos had fallen from the wall between setup and capture of the best frame for part of my panorama. Surprisingly, the photograph landed in a lucky position and I was able to restore it to its proper location using Adobe Photoshop.

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The Writer’s Room Dance

The Writer’s Room on the 7th floor of Alkek Library hosts semi-annual exhibits from the Wittliff Collections that are documented by Digital and Web Services. With five glassed-in wall cases and multiple light sources, the room is challenging to photograph! We photograph each case multiple times with a tripod-mounted camera while a sheet of black foam core is moved throughout the frame to flag, or block, the many reflections in the glass. These shots are digitally combined into a single image without distracting reflections.

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