"VueScan enables 18,000 photographs to be digitized – allowing the preservation of national history for the Czech Republic"

VueScan allows the Šechtl & Voseček Museum of Photography to digitize, archive, retouch and prepare digital reproduction from negatives and photographs dating since 1865.

The Šechtl & Voseček Museum of Photography is a private museum in the Czech Republic.

The founder of the studio acquired a licence for photography in 1865 and the photographic tradition continued for 3 generations of family. Although the studio was nationalised by the communist government in 1951, they continued in the tradition as freelance fine art photographers.

How much is scanned?

In the last 3 years the museum has digitized about 18,000 photographs (including glass plate negatives, photographic prints, 35mm nitrate negatives and modern sheet films), and made them available on the internet. This is the largest digital archive of its kind in the country. They have also prepared 10 exhibitions from the archive as well as works of other photographers.

Systems Used

Digitization and archiving is done on an Intel Core Duo machine running SUSE Linux with Vuescan. Retouching is done on Mac G5 running MacOS 10.3.

Problems to be dealt with

The museum was looking for a way to make high quality scans from historical glass plate negatives 8x8cm to 20x30cm, avoiding the need for it to be done again in the near future. The workload and mistakes made needed to be minimised, and the results saved to RAW files enabling quality reproduction to be carried out in the future directly from the scanning archives.

Why VueScan?

“Vuescan has the very useful ability to save 16-bit TIFF files with RAW scans from about every scanner (Epson Perfection 4990 in our case). Those files contain all the information acquired from scanners and they are not locked to any specific software vendor, unlike many proprietary RAW files. The RAW scans can be produced almost mechanically, relying on VueScan's auto exposure. In the majority of cases all we need to do is to press Preview, choose Crop Area and press Scan.“ says Jan Hubička, museum curator.

“The historical negatives are also large in size and very sharp, therefore it is very important for us that VueScan is able to handle very large scans and we can digitize 18x24cm negatives on 2400DPI.”

“The resulting files are readable by VueScan, and also by image manipulation programs that will be available at least for a few decades in the future, so the archive is not locked to any particular software vendor or hardware platform. For black and white negatives, the 16-bit RAW tiff are very easy to use directly in image editing software, and in the case of historical negatives with their very high dynamic range and regular exposure problems, editing the direct RAW files leads to superior results compared to tools designed to process mainly contemporary colour negatives.“

The museum also used VueScan to digitize mostly nitrate 35mm films (dated 1927-1951) on Minolta 5400 with a very similar workflow.

“Today the museum is processing the orwocolor negatives (from 1960s-1990s) where the colour correction and digital ICE process carried out by VueScan is very useful, so we keep both RAW and final 16-bit TIFF with very basic colour balance and ICE applied. Orwocolor negatives have a brighter film base than normal colour negatives resulting in over exposure - especially in blue and red channels even at minimal exposure. Hamrick Software added a feature that allows specific gains for each channel separately allowing us to obtain good reproduction out of these films. I was very impressed to see the feature we requested added for our discontinued scanner in just three days.”

How it has helped us in real terms

“When the museum first considered digitization of archives, the scanners capable of handling this material were very expensive. Our estimated cost was 5000 Euros ($6,900). With the arrival of cheaper, high quality Epson scanners - combined with VueScan – our total outlay was 666 Euros. ($920).

The quality of scans for glass plate negatives is very good and compares very well to scans made on very expensive equipment (in terms of density, resolution and scanner noise). 18x24cm negatives can easily be enlarged into very sharp prints of over 2m in size.”

Future plans

The museum is now planning on digitizing modern slides and sheet films and is looking for a VueScan based solution, especially due to the savings in workflow attributed to saving directly with raw files.

To visit the museum and view its photography please visit:

http://sechtl-vosecek.ucw.cz/en/

For further information please contact: Jan Hubička, Šechtl & Voseček Museum of photography.