Digitising 35mm Slides

Take a look at www.nomadsinoman.com It is a fascinating record of nomadic tribal life in the latter part of the last century. So why is it featured here…?

The original images were on 35mm slides, and although they had been well looked after, 30 years of storage meant that some of them were beginning to lose their colour. They had been taken by Dr Dawn Chatty (University Reader in Anthropology and Forced Migration and Deputy Director, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford), as part of her work with the Harasiis tribe in the Jiddat-il-Harasiis in Oman. Just as importantly, they are a resource that Dr Chatty wanted to make more widely available.

Myself and a colleague (Carl Wenczek) advised Dr Chatty on how she might preserve the images. The main part of the advice was:

  • Get the images professionally cleaned and scanned
  • Colour correct the images
  • Catalogue the images in a consistent, standard format
  • Create an on-line database for the images
  • Plan for the long term archival of the digitised images

There were a large number of images (in excess of 2000) and the University doesn’t have the facility for scanning so many slides in a reasonable time and so the cleaning and digitisation was carried out by Max Communications. They did an excellent job digitising the images at very high resolution (4000dpi, 48-bit colour depth).

My experience with Aperture on a Mac suggested that the colour correction and image tagging could quite easily be carried out by Dr Chatty and her colleagues with a little training. However, Aperture is a Mac application, and Dr Chatty uses Windows, so Carl and myself gave some training in the use of Adobe Lightroom. Both Aperture and Lightroom are able to export images and tags in standard formats.

The web site was written by colleagues of Dr Chatty in her Department. The site is written using the Plone content management system.

Currently the digitised images are backed up using the 3-2-1 regime. Three copies of each image, two different media (DVD and mass storage), with one copy off-site. This is partly managed through the University’s HFS backup system. Longer term archiving is trickier, and there are discussions taking place on how best to achieve this.

So, if you have a large collection of 35mm slides that need preserving, take heart. – it can be done. Dr Chatty is hoping to publish a description of the project soon, and i’ll post a reference here.

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