Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Article: Archivists embrace digital page

This is a nice article about the digitization efforts occurring at the University of Toronto with help from the Internet Archive. They have digitized about 44,000 books that are now available for free on the Internet. Later in the article, the author writes about the machines and people working on the project (called the 13 Scribes):
The "scribes" here are a combination of people and custom-built machines that can each scan up to 500 book pages in an hour. Multiply that by 13 such set-ups and two seven-hour shifts every weekday and you can see how the scanning centre manages to copy more than 1,000 books a week.

...The only sounds are repeated soft "swooshes" and the subdued click of cameras. The swooshes come from the rise and fall of V-shaped glass plates that press the pages of books flat to allow high-resolution photography.

The human half of each scribe turns the book pages, pumps the glass up and down with a foot pedal and fires the cameras. All 13 scribes are cosseted inside a light-proof cowling of black fabric, increasing the resemblance to monks in a scriptorium.

The project is efficient in getting the materials online, with some materials available within 24 hours.

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