Digitizing the Samuel Goudsmit Papers

In the Fall 2008 issue of the Newsletter we reported that the Library & Archives had received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to scan and mount online the complete papers of Samuel A. Goudsmit, consisting of an estimated 66,000 individual items.

We promised that we’d keep you updated, and we're pleased to report that the entire collection has been prepared for shipment to the imaging vendor, Macfadden & Associates; the first 12 boxes of the collection have been scanned; and staff are beginning to review the scanned images.

Creating an archival-quality digital facsimile of the Goudsmit Papers requires painstaking and time consuming work. The project’s assistant director, Melanie Brown, and the project assistant, Rebecca Bruner, prepared the collection by inspecting each sheet of paper for damage and removing all staples or other fasteners. Where necessary they replaced the fasteners with strips of acid-free paper, and they flattened folded edges and crumpled corners.

The prepared documents are being transported in small batches to Macfadden & Associates in nearby Silver Spring, MD. Since the Goudsmit Papers are irreplaceable, the scanning technicians cannot use a document feeder. Instead, each piece of paper is placed onto a flatbed scanner by hand. The slower pace and individual attention also allows the technician to adjust the contrast levels for each image, resulting in a more readable digital representation.

As the vendor returns the scanned documents, the next and most important phase of the project begins — review of each page. Melanie and Rebecca compare each scanned image with its original document, verifying that the correct image has been scanned, the image is oriented properly, and the contrast is light or dark enough to read penciled annotations and fading carbon sheets. If an image does not meet these and other archival specifications, it’s returned to the vendor to be rescanned.

With the help of AIP Web Development staff, we are beginning to explore the next stage of the project: designing the storage system and online interface for displaying the digitized collection. We're expecting exciting results and will continue to keep you updated.

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