camera turns boon in uploading Charles X archive
Washington, Sep 5 (IANS) A researcher on a short trip to another
country, found his digital camera a boon in digitising bulky
foreign archives at a fraction of the cost.
Christopher Gennari, assistant professor at Camden County
College, Blackwood, New Jersey is a historian and amateur
His research into Swedish military history and the reign of
Charles X of the 17th century took him to the Riksarkivet
in Stockholm, Sweden.
"Digital photography and computer technology allowed
me to capture, transport, and manipulate a previously inconceivable
amount of documents at a tremendous cost saving," he
"This has many benefits for the researcher including
a greater convenience of time, a dramatic savings of money,
and an increased flexibility in using the documents."
"Additionally, my need for frequent return trips and
long, expensive, stays in a foreign country to continue my
research has been eliminated. I have a lifetime worth of research
documents at my fingers whenever I wish to conduct the research;
24 hours a day, 365 days a year."
Gennari set about photographing 2,500 documents, producing
some 25,000 images in total, which would have been the equivalent
of $15,000 worth of photocopying.
If he had used a film camera, almost 700 rolls of film (about
$4,000) would have been required with the attendant costs
of converting those to photo CDs adding $30,000 to the total
However, with the images safely stored on a handful of recordable
DVDs, Gennari was able to import the whole collection into
Google's free Picasa image library software for cataloguing
and study on his return to the US.
"As a US university student I was constrained by factors
of time, space, income and, unexpectedly, source material,"
Gennari said. "I only had the income and free time to
support living in Sweden for about a month.
"Travel space restrictions on transatlantic flights limited
my ability to perform massive photocopying; the sheer bulk
weight (not to mention cost) of hundreds of photocopied pages
made for a daunting endeavour."
With this in mind, he planned to make very specific use of
the Riksarkivet materials, reading only highly relevant letters
and documents in the archives.
However, there was a major stumbling block in his research
path. The letters, although expertly categorised and chronicled
were incredibly difficult to read.
"The 17th century handwriting was difficult to read,
it was narrow, close together, and in many cases nearly the
entire page is filled with script making it difficult to know
where a sentence finished or began."
The archivists in Stockholm offered Gennari a magnifying glass
and a handwriting decoder photocopy and wished him luck.
"Suddenly, in leafing through a series of folios,"
he recalled, "I realised why very few Swedes and not
a single English language historian had done large scale,
archival level work on the reign of Charles X."
His plan to efficiently glide through letters searching out
significant keywords or authors lay in tatters. The idea of
photocopying all the relevant documents was impossibility,
because of cost, time and travel constraints.
An off-hand remark at the Riksarkivet revealed that they not
only allowed non-flash photography of their collections, but
they even had a camera stand setup for the occasional photographing
of maps and images that could not be photocopied.
The details have been published in the inaugural issue of
the International Journal of Digital Culture and Electronic