Minnesota Local History

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Advice and help with building history capacity.

The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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Minnesota African American Museum Grand Opening, Minneapolis, Minnesota

By: Joe Hoover | June 6, 2012
After many years of planning and fundraising the Minnesota African American Museum opened its doors on June 1st, 2012 Minnesota now joins the 44 other states that have a museum dedicated to African American history. The Museum is housed in the 128-year-old historic Coe Mansion in Minneapolis' Stevens Square Neighborhood. The museum's first exhibit, devoted to the history of black baseball in Minnesota, and its effect on the Upper Midwest.



Beltrami County Historical Society - Bemidji, Minnesota

By: Joe Hoover | May 23, 2012
Beltrami County History Center is  located  in the restored 1912 Great Northern Depot. As the video shows, the museum maintains both long term exhibits and some shorter term rotating exhibits developed either in house by the Beltrami County Historical Society or statewide traveling exhibits.  These frequently changing smaller exhibit allows visitors something new to see when returning to the museum.



Firefighters Hall and Museum

By: Joe Hoover | May 15, 2012
The Firefighter's Hall and Museum, in Northeast Minneapolis, is dedicated to preserving vintage firefighting equipment as well as running a research library and a meeting hall for area firefighters.

The museum which features fire trucks,  fire engines and rescue equipment going back over 100 years also provides interactive exhibits as well as fire safety training for children.



Saint Louis County Historical Society

By: Joe Hoover | May 8, 2012
Saint Louis County Historical Society, much like the Minnesota Historical Society, is a full service history organization. In addition to its own exhibits on lumbering, mining, and many other locally significant stories, SLCHS operates Veteran's Memorial Hall on behalf of the Saint Louis County Commissioners. Civil War veterans began Vets Hall, which like SLCHS also started in the Saint Louis County Courthouse. SLCHS has won national awards for a number of its exhibits. The expertise shown in the video is shared with affiliate history organizations throughout Saint Louis County. The reuse of the Duluth Union Depot, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, as a cultural center of many local organizations has preserved the historic use as a community gathering space.



Swift County History Museum

By: Joe Hoover | May 2, 2012
The Swift County History Museum is located on the west edge of Benson off of U.S. Highway 12. The museum features artifacts that depict the history of Swift County. Many of the artifacts are displayed in period room settings – dining room, living room, bedroom, general store, church, school, etc. The museum also features decade exhibits for 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.



Tri River Pioneer Museum

By: Joe Hoover | April 20, 2012
The Tri-River Pioneer Museum is the only building built to be a museum in Red Lake County. As the video shows very well, it is a fairly typical local history museum led by a very dedicated group of volunteers who have sacrificed much in order to make the history of the Plummer area much more accessible.



Grant Workshop with Access Philanthropy

By: Joe Hoover | Funding | April 17, 2012
Full day grant workshop at the Blue Earth County Historical Society with presenter Steve Paprocki, President, Access Philanthropy.

This is a combined podcast with all four sessions for a combined length of 4 hours. Watch the presentation or download the audio.



MHCG: Planting the Seeds of the Green Revolution

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | April 3, 2012
On site review of the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grants funded project with Elisabeth Kaplan, Head, University Archives & Co-Director, University Digital Conservancy, University of Minnesota Libraries. June 17, 2011.

The University of Minnesota Libraries received funding support to digitize the records of the principals of the Green Revolution, the worldwide collaborative effort to expand food crop production that traces its roots to the University of Minnesota in the first half of the 20th century. The project’s centerpiece is the Norman E. Borlaug Papers, which are complemented by the collections of his colleagues and mentors, including Elvin C. Stakman, John Gibler, and Helen Hart, and the Plant Pathology departmental records, and are frequently used by students, faculty, and independent scholars.

University Archives selected approximately 58 boxes of materials directly related to the Green Revolution for digitization. These comprise a variety of formats including photographs, correspondence, field notebooks, and other materials. With this project, University of Minnesota Libraries expanded use of the Green Revolution collections by creating digital surrogates of the materials, delivered via a web-based, publicly available, full-text searchable database.

The University of Minnesota Libraries received funding support to digitize the records of the principals of the Green Revolution, the worldwide collaborative effort to expand food crop production that traces its roots to the University of Minnesota in the first half of the 20th century. The project’s centerpiece is the Norman E. Borlaug Papers, which are complemented by the collections of his colleagues and mentors, including Elvin C. Stakman, John Gibler, and Helen Hart, and the Plant Pathology departmental records, and are frequently used by students, faculty, and independent scholars.

University Archives selected approximately 58 boxes of materials directly related to the Green Revolution for digitization. These comprise a variety of formats including photographs, correspondence, field notebooks, and other materials. With this project, University of Minnesota Libraries expanded use of the Green Revolution collections by creating digital surrogates of the materials, delivered via a web-based, publicly available, full-text searchable database.

Using your iPhone/iPad to Record Oral History

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | March 12, 2012
Using an IPad to record Oral Histories
Modified image Wikimedia Commons.


First let me admit this is not the last word on using an iPhone to record oral histories, it is just an attempt to get the dialog going, secondly you may notice the obvious omission of other mobile devices such as Android for use in recording. Omission does not mean that they shouldn't be used, they may be perfectly acceptable however the one nice thing about iPhone and iPad is that both the hardware and operating system are made by one manufacture making comparisons and quality control simpler.  I encourage others to post results they may have had using other mobile devices for oral history interviews. Lastly much of the content was excerpted from the testing and excellent work of Jeff Geerling. Check out his site if you are interested in even more in-depth information.

What a difference a couple of years can make in technology. Prices go down, megapixels and device and app quality go up.  While an iPhone/iPad might not offer all the quality control that an expensive camera or recording device can do for a large organization like the Smithsonian especially when they might be looking at reuse of the interview in a national exhibit, for a smaller museum/organization not only is using an iPhone/iPad acceptable but probably better than many of the magnetic video and audio recording devices that they were using in the past.

Key points to remember:

  • When recording, turning off Wi-fi may help to prevent background noise/feedback.

  • Turn on Airplane mode on your iPhone to prevent calls during a recording session.

  • Battery Life - make sure to fully charge your device or that it is plugged into a power source.

  • Storage - if you are going to be using your iPhone or iPad for recording video oral histories you never can have enough storage. Think about getting at least 32GB.

  • An iPod Touch can be used for recording audio but should not be used for video as the lens quality records at less than 1 megapixel.

  • I recommend using iPhone 4 and iPad 2 and above.

  • These are meant as suggestions not set in stone guidelines.

  • Having proper lighting and a recording environment still are important.

  • Technical specs for iPad and iPhone


AUDIO RECORDING APP


For a recording app you might want to look at FiRe 2 from Audiofile Engineering.

The basic interface is fairly simple to use but it does have advanced features you can tap into like a variety of metadata standards, format conversion, and time markers and uploading to Dropbox or your own FTP server.

VIDEO RECORDING APP


You can just use the Built-in camera that comes with the iPhone/iPad/iPod it handles different audio inputs, but without much configuration or level control, and no monitoring.

For a more fully featured camera app check out FiLMiC Pro, unfortunately it also has no audio controls.

MICROPHONES


While an iPad, iPhone, iPod is great to record on, their built in mics are not good for recording high quality audio. The biggest thing you are going to need is a good mic. There are many many different kinds of mics out their here are some suggestions:
•RadioShack 33-3013 Electret Condenser Lavaliere Microphone
•Crown Sound-Grabber-II Conference Microphone
•Audio Technica PRO88W-R35 Wireless Lavalier System
•Sony WCS-999 Wireless Microphone System
•Rode VideoMic Shotgun Microphone
•There are many others...

However, for all these mics you will need an Audio Input Adapter for your iPad/iPhone/iPhone - See the next section.

AUDIO INPUT ADAPTER


With an iPhone you will need an audio input adapter for most mics.

RECORDING AUDIO WITH TWO MICROPHONES - IPOD/IPHONE


You can use a simple option and get a Monster iSplitter and plug a lavaliere microphone into each side. (Don't forget to use an audio input adapter with it)

GuitarJack Model 2, into which you can plug a stereo input source (or two microphones that go one in left, one in right channel). You can also use 1/4 inch Input without an adapter.

RECORDING AUDIO WITH TWO MICROPHONES - IPAD


With an iPad in addition to recording with the headphone jack, you can also record with the iPad's Dock Connector to record two tracks (stereo) with one mic to the interviewer and one mic to the interviewee.

You'll need to have the USB adapter from the iPad Camera Connection Kit

And then, you'll need one of the following USB interfaces to translate analog inputs to the USB connection:

And finally you will need one of the following apps to support multi-channel recording and mixing

OTHER OPTIONS



  • For out-of-the-box options for recording sound, here is one high-end and somewhat expensive solution: iM2
    (this does come with it own free app you can download from iTunes)

  • ...and one amazingly cheap and surprisingly useful solution: Flexible-mini-capsule-microphone


TRIPODS, MOUNTS AND CAMERA STABILIZERS


Tripod Mount


In order to attach an iPhone or iPad to a tripod you are going to need a lot of rubber bands and duct tape or you can try one of these solutions. Their are several solutions available.



  • Snap Mount For iPhone 4/4S - Unfortunately they are currently having a problem keeping up with demand and are out of stock.

  • Movie Mount for iPad 2 - I have not had a chance to try out  iPad Mounts yet but I like this one because of the ability to add a mic/lens/light to the mount.



Tripods


Almost any camera tripod should work with the above mounts, however, I do have one recommendation that I have found compact and useful especially the tripod because of the magnetic feet which allows you to mount it on most metal surfaces.

iPhone Camera Stabilizer


While this might be a terrible solution for using oral histories it is great if you are recording while you are walking on a tour. One big drawback - there is no mount for a mic and I have found it quite impossible to balance the camera with a mic attached.

Scanning Negatives and Slides

By: Joe Hoover | Information Technology | January 6, 2012
Many historical Societies and archives find themselves with hundreds if not thousands of slides and negatives in their collections often with little or no description of what is on each of them. From a preservation standpoint color slides and negatives will suffer from deterioration over time, especially pre-1978 where slides and negatives which where made with comparatively unstable films and unlike prints, slides can be very difficult to notice fading or deterioration without the aid of a projector or light box and negatives are impossible to tell how much fading has occurred.

In order to provide better access, get a better idea of what is in a collection and  to better preserve images on fading and deteriorating film it is important to digitally scan slides and negatives and to add the proper metadata.

It's never too soon to start preserving your slides and photos, and in some cases it may already be too late.

Conditions you can find slides and negatives even if they have been in unopened boxes or untouched sleeves:

  • Slides and negatives which are stuck to their sleeves

  • Snowflake crystal-like artifacts on film

  • Film developed by drugstore-type services, fading very badly, where the same type of film processed at the same time by different vendors can be fine

  • Dark Fading or Light Fading (see below)


Clean Before Scanning


Detail showing tiny hair on slide

Detail showing tiny hair on slide



Microscopic specs of dust become boulders and tiny hairs become tree limbs when scanned at 2400 dpi. Newer scanners can use technology to "remove" the dust scanned on with the image. However the dust is not actually removed rather it is modifying the image to hide the dust. Dust and dirt ideally should be removed before scanning.

  • Wear surgical gloves when handling negatives or slides. Even if finger prints are not visible grease from fingers can cause problems years down the line.

  • To remove simple dust before scanning clean using compressed air, an antistatic brush, and careful attention.

  • For slides with serious problems like finger prints use Pec-12 and Pec Pads.

  • The best solution would be to never get the slides dirty and with careful storage dust and damage can be mitigated. However even slides that have never left their box or envelope seem to accumulate dust.


Flatbed Scanner or Dedicated Slide Scanner?


As recent as a few years ago there was a great difference in quality from a dedicated slide scanner  versus a flat bed scanner with a slide scanner attachment. However, quality of what you can get from a flat bed scanner with a slide scanner attachment has improved to the point that most are buying flatbed slide/negative scanner combinations and many slide scanner producers like Nikon have simply stopped making dedicated slide scanners. The other nice thing is that with the increase in quality there has been a corresponding significant drop in price of scanners. There still is at least a couple of companies still making slide/negative scanners and if you have hundreds or thousands of slides and negatives or are dealing with professionally taken/processed slides and negatives it would be a worthwhile expense (currently around $400) to purchase a dedicated slide/negative scanner.

One advantage of a flatbed slide/negative scanner combination is that not all negatives are 35mm and many can scan a large variety of sizes of transparencies. However you have to do the research to see just what each model supports.

While a flatbed slide/negative scanner combination is acceptable, other scanners are not. Document scanners, Microfilm Reader/Scanners and the all-in-one copier/scanner/faxing machines  either lack the resolution, the optics or both for doing archival quality scans.

Another issue is the age of the scanner. Like computers, scanners have improved to a point both in quality and price that it is really worth looking at retiring an older working scanner. The example on the left below comes from the Minnesota Historical Society's own scanner in the SHPO office. The scanner was purchased in 2001 and still works very well. However, the highest DPI is 2400 which is inadequate for many 35mm slides and the optics are far from perfect when compared to a newer 2011 model scanning at the same DPI.













2001 Flatbed Scanner
detail-2400dpi
2011 Flatbed Scanner
detail-2400dpi

Dark Fading | Light Fading


Remember that resolution isn't everything. Color and contrast are equally important and dealing with older slides and negatives you will run into the issue of fading. Slides and photos will fade for a variety of reasons. All dyes have a limited lifetime because they break down because of temperature, light and chemical reactions to materials within the dyes themselves.

Dyes that fade when they are in the dark is termed "Dark Fading" and dyes that fade because they are exposed to light  is termed "Light Fading.

Light fading is caused by exposure to high intensity light such as when a slide is shown in a slide projector. Magenta dyes will typically fade the quickest.

Dark Fading occurs when your slides are not exposed to light. It is caused by a temperature and relative humidity reaction. Cyan dyes will typically fade more quickly. Prior to the mid-1980s, the Cyan dye was particularly unstable. BTW:  It is important to understand that Dark fading is not caused by darkness, Dark fading simply refers to the fading and staining that take place in a color material during storage when light is not present.

Digitally Fixing Fading


Improvements in software have made color and contrast correction remarkably easy with "auto correction" tools with are often available with the scanning software. However, true color correction and digital restoration is both and art and a science, to get the best possible results  hire a professional with experience in color correction and digital restoration.

NOTE: It is important to understand that your unmodified raw scanned image is your master image. Contrast or color corrections to the image will make it a derivative of the master image since correcting the image introduces changes that are subjective AND unreversable. However if the image needs major correcting it is acceptable to archive a corrected derivative to along with the unmodified master image so it can be used to create further derivatives.

Slide and Negative Preservation


Since negatives and slides are original source information it is important to keep them as long as they remain a viable source. With proper care and storage certain filmstocks can store unchanged for decades.  Unfortunately film preservation is out of the scope of this article. However Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc. has extensive articles on slide and negative preservation. Founders Henry Wilhelm and Carol Brower Wilhelm literally wrote the book on slide and negative preservation.

Additional Resources


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