Nome Nugget Digitization: Update

Hello friends,

Do you ever feel like sometimes things sometimes just don’t go right? Or that they take much longer than they should, and it’s a process of one step forward and two steps back? The ongoing re-shooting of the bound volumes of the Nome Nugget on the Bookeye scanner sure feels that way.

Just this week we opened up the 1917-1918 volume, only to find that it had sections of pages torn or cut. Because this is our “master copy” of the newspaper, this is really bad news. Unfortunately, we have to make due with what we have; an existing paper, however damaged, is better than no paper at all. Thanks to the expertise of our Sandy Johnston, one of our stellar colleagues in the Historical Collections division at the State Library, we were able to piece together a few pages to our best abilities using mylar sleeves of plastic.

Old newsprint is very fragile and is prone to crumble upon contact. Mylar plastic uses its static electricity to help keep these pages of torn newsprint together- especially when pages need to be flipped over to film the reverse side!

Bound volume of the Nome Nugget open to a torn page with articles cut out and mylar plastic placed under the first page.
Notice the mylar behind the fourth page to try to keep the torn pieces of newsprint together. Image courtesy of the author.

As you can see in the above image, bits and pieces of torn newsprint make filming a challenge. It can feel like a puzzle to piece together parts of the paper. Even with the mylar, though, the glass plate attached to the BookEye scanner that flattens the page may shift these pieces. It requires a great deal of patience and care to film the newspaper so that words can still be detected for optical character recognition (OCR).

image operator Greg has his back to the camera as he folds over a page of the bound volume and places an acid-free paperboard behind the clear plastic mylar sleeve that holds together the torn newsprint.
To film the entire torn page without the front page of the next issue, image operator Greg places an acid-free paperboard behind the clear plastic mylar sleeve that holds together the torn newsprint. Image courtesy of the author.

What all this has driven home is the importance of proper archival stewardship. Don’t make assumptions that there are backup copies of anything, especially because these are our master copies. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure! Fortunately,  there are always solutions- no matter how dire a preservation problem seems.


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