Friday, July 13, 2012

Guillotine guilt

Tight binding, no gutter. Won't work.
WE'VE RECEIVED THE GOOD NEWS that the Lyrasis Mass Digitization scanning work is proceeding  fast, fast, fast. Tucked into the message about the completion of the first shipment (Inter-Nos), though, was the unhappy news that binders 1, 4, 7 and 8 of The View are too tightly bound to scan successfully. In the example above, the folio disappears into the binding, obscuring the date. Text and photos disappear the same way, meaning the articles are digitally incomplete.

Yes, they're called guillotines. The
modern models aren't much different. 
In our instructions to the scanners, we included a note that it was okay to "disbind" the newspapers "if unavoidable." The judgment is between preserving the bound volumes or digitizing the contents. The binding has served an invaluable preservation purpose up to this moment, making sure that these fragile, brittle newsprint pages have remained intact over the decades. Removing the binding will shorten their life.

But it's a tradeoff, to be sure. Having digital access to the newspapers means that there will be zero need to handle the fragile originals. Every turn of an old page is one step closer to the whole thing snapping off (see the "double fold" test). So, in that sense, we're risking the papers to preserve them.

It's not so simple, though. Digital files have yet to prove that they will enjoy anything close to the longevity even of old newsprint. We have more confidence in the 1945 newsprint than the 2012 JPEG.

We have no intention of discarding the disbound newspapers. Our friends at Kater-Krafts can create nice custom-made boxes for loose sheets. Then we can hope that The View and its successors will be around for whatever comes next... for surely JPEGs won't be the last word in digital access.

And by the way -- happy Bastille Day tomorrow!

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