My Grandfather Barker’s letters are very special treasures and like any good family historian, I’ve been digitizing them so they can be shared. In my Barker family history project, I will use some of the images but mostly as design elements. Transcribed snippets of their contents will be included in the narrative when they add to the story.
While I won’t be including the letter archive in the actual family history, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to share them. I am currently experimenting with different ideas for “publishing” the collection so others can enjoy them too. It is turning into more of a challenge than I initially expected.
Rather than just upload the individual images to a photo-sharing site like Flickr, I want to present the letters as a publication – actually as a series of publications – with a bit of narrative to provide context and connect each separate edition to the complete series. I’ll be taking the lessons learned from Miss Kate’s Autograph Book but scaling it up quite a bit.
The first challenge is size. Digital Archive 101 teaches us to scan at high resolutions and save the file using a quality file format (TIFF). This means each page of each letter is a hefty size. Now, if I just dump a bunch of huge files into a single document, what will I have? King Kong would be a child’s toy compared to this beast. Fortunately Apple’s iWork apps include a command to reduce the image size once you place it into your project. This saves me the effort of having to edit and resize each image then save it as a new file before I place it in my project.
I have chosen to use the presentation graphics app, Keynote, to present the letters. Unlike word processors’ automatic pagination trying to place my images for me, Keynote lets me place and resize my images to fit the slide without all that scrolling back an forth. [Much less aggravating.] After finding a simple theme that complements the color of the letters, I was on my way.
Dolph’s handwriting and most of the scanned pages are quite legible so I’m not planning to include transcriptions. I will include an introduction slide on each edition that provides a brief bio, the history behind these letters and which edition it is within the series. Each edition will be posted on Scribd where it can be read and/or downloaded. Of course I’ll include contact information and links to my family collection at Scribd in each edition.
Once the first edition is complete, it will become the template for all the later editions. It will also give me an idea of how many letters I can include in each. Yes, there are still many letters yet to be scanned, so this will be another of my “Living” projects – only with new editions with new content rather than revisions to an existing publication.
This article was originally published July 24, 2010.