Monday, April 10, 2006

Using a Magic Lens

Handwriting can be very difficult to read. When we digitize old letter or diaries (for example), we want people to see or read the original, but we know that people may not understand the handwriting. Transcripts can be effective, but are not glamorous. Last week I was introduced to an interesting way of overlaying a transcript onto handwritten text. It's called the "magic lens."

Here at the DoHistory web site, you can see a magic lens applied to Martha Ballard's diary. As you move the lens over the text, you can view the transcription.

This example from Memorial Hall Museum Online is a bit different. Here you can expand the magic lens so that more of the transcribed text can be seen at the same time.

This magic lens provides several benefits:
  1. Users of the site can now better understand the text because they can read it, while still viewing the original handwriting.
  2. It allows people who are visually impaired to better view the text. (There is also an implementation of the magic lens that reads the text to the user.)
  3. It is fun, which may lead users to spending more time looking at documents.
If you are including handwritten documents, you may want to look into adding this type of feature. (You might even talk to a site that has already implement it and ask if they can share what they did.)

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