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Sacramento Street; view toward bay down the south side of street, San Francisco, [ca. 1852-1853], The Bancroft Library

Bancroft Library Procedures

Bancroft Library cased photographs were drawn from many different provenance-based collections.

Objects were brought together from these different collections and batched by size to facilitate conservation and copy photography. We found it to be most efficient to treat a number of objects of the same size at one time. During batching, fragile or damaged items were flagged for special treatment, and items were temporarily placed in flat boxes for ease of transportation.

Staff entered a brief descriptive record for each object in a project database. The database was hierarchical, so that entries could be made for collections, with all related item entries made under their collection record. Records contained identifying call numbers, project batch numbers, physical descriptions and other cataloging information, condition notes, etc. Single page printouts of each record were made to accompany each item throughout project routing. Annotations were then made on these printouts at every stage. Following physical examination and conservation treatment, catalogers completed descriptive records, adding notes made during treatment.

The database contains some internal curatorial information not exported to the public finding aid, such as condition and treatment notes, but the great majority of data has been included in the finding aid.

The descriptions present in the finding aids follow rules set forth in Anglo Amercan Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2) and in Elisabeth Betz's Graphic Materials: rules for describing original items and historical collections. However, the specialized nature of the objects and the descriptive detail that was desired led to the creation of many local standards and descriptive conventions. For further information on description, see the frontmatter of each repository's finding aid.

Copy Photography and Digitization:
At the outset of the project, all items were sorted into batches and routed to Library Photographic Services, a unit within the U.C. Berkeley library system. Pre-treatment 35mm slides were made of each object in order to document pre-existant condition.

After photography, each size-based batch was routed to the Conservation Treatment Lab, where the specialist consultant and conservation technician examined, treated, and made notes about each item.

During treatment, copy photographs were made at the discretion of the specialist consultant. 35mm color slides were shot to document daguerreian plate marks, patent blind stamps, inscriptions or printed text in case wells, and other details which can be seen only when the object is disassembled. (A small selection of such documentary images has been digitized as examples in the present finding aid.) 4x5 color transparencies or 4x5 b&w negatives were made during treatment to document exceptional images in their "bare plate" state. The decision to photograph images bare plate was based upon the quality or historical importance of the image, or upon the presence of image detail normally obscured under the mat. 4x5 images made during treatment have been digitized and included in the finding aid.

After treatment, images were routed to the Library Photographic Services for photographic copying. 4x5 black and white copy negatives were made as preservation copies, and high-resolution scans were made directly from each original using a digital camera. The digital camera used was a PhaseOne Powerphase digital scanning back on a Hasselblad with 120mm Makro-Planar CF lens, mounted on a copystand, with Kaiser daylight fluorescent illumination. The entire open case and plate were included in the scans. Non-portrait views and portraits of exceptional importance or quality were scanned a second time, capturing the image side of the open case only, thus providing a higher resolution copy of the image area itself. A compact target including a grayscale, centimeter scale, and color patches was included for reference with each scan. Typical capture resolutions were in the 600 to 1200 pixels per inch range.

Photographing the daguerrotypes and ambrotypes required some vigorous methods to control reflections that would otherwise obscure the images. This was necessary because of a combination of several factors. First, the mirror-like daguerrotype plates are highly reflective, and the glass surfaces of the ambrotype plates and cover glasses are also reflective. Second, both ambrotypes and daguerrotypes often have large areas of unusually dark image tones, such as a black suit or dress, where reflections show prominently. Finally, cased images are usually small objects which need to be photographed close up, meaning that the camera is close to the copyboard, and so any light reflected from the area of the copyboard will brightly illuminate the camera mask, which then reflects in the image. In addition to using a black ceiling in the studio and masking the camera with a piece of black cardboard, it was necessary to construct cardboard louvers to allow the lighting to fall only on the copyboard, and to cover the copyboard with black paper except for a small piece of dark gray background paper just large enough to cover the capture area.

California State Library Procedures

Approximately 70 items in the State Library's collection of cased photographs were cleaned and preserved in the 1980s. At that time, color transparencies and negatives were made of each item. The goal of the 1999-2000 project was initially to digitize the existing transparencies. However, upon review of the existing transparencies, several factors led Berkeley's imaging supervisor to recommend that direct digital captures be made from the originals, and that only transparencies made of "bare plates" during prior treatment would be scanned. (Since further preservation work was not necessary, it was not feasible or desirable to re-open image packages to make new bare plate images.)

74 objects (comprising 78 images) were sent by courier from the State Library to Berkeley, and digital capture was carried out by Library Photographic Services. Prior to imaging, the project archivist and specialist consultant reviewed the objects. In consultation with the Head of Special Collections at the State Library, some minor stabilization and cleaning of cover glass was performed for the few items that had not been treated in the 1980s. (For these items, Library Photographic Services also made preservation negatives in addition to digital captures.)

Cataloging work was performed by a cataloger on the staff of the State Library. Cataloging standards were agreed upon in conversation with project staff at The Bancroft Library. Item records in the MARC format were created, and appear in the State Library's online catalog. These records were sent to Bancroft staff, who imported them into the project database. This database served as a project tracking tool, and also was the source of the data included in online finding aid text.

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Last update 06/19/2007. Server manager: Contact
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