Inaugurations Home Page

Building the Digital Collection

Many of the digital items in "I Do Solemnly Swear . . .": Presidential Inaugurations were scanned from originals held by the Library of Congress and the Architect of the Capitol. Other materials were assembled from existing Web resources from American Memory and other sites that are noted in About the Collection and Acknowledgments. This is the first American Memory collection that draws heavily on both newly scanned materials and pre existing collections in a variety of original formats.

Digital Capture

Manuscript materials
All manuscript documents from the Library of Congress Manuscript Division were scanned by the Information Technology Services (ITS) Digital Scan Center using a PowerPhase One FX satellite digital camera. Almost all documents were scanned at a resolution of 300 dpi 24-bit color. A few items were scanned at 300 dpi 8-bit grayscale. The lens used was a Rodenstock Rodagon 135-mm and a Rodenstock 105-mm APO lens. A Linhof book cradle, modified by TTI, Inc. in New Jersey, was used for all bound and oversized material. In addition, a special cradle to scan hinged manuscripts in bound volumes was built by a book conservator from the Library of Congress Conservation Division.

Photographic materials
About eighty-five original prints and photographs from the Prints and Photographs Division were scanned by the ITS Digital Scan Center at a 400 dpi custom resolution 24-bit color or, in cases of black and white images, they were scanned at 400 dpi 8-bit grayscale.

Perhaps another fifty digital reproductions in this presentation were produced from existing copy negatives and transparencies in the Prints and Photographs Division. These film copies were produced to facilitate future reproduction requests and were utilized for scanning in this project in order to reduce handling of the original collection materials.

Most of the copy negatives and transparencies were digitized to approximately 4000 pixels in the long dimension by JJT, Inc. of Austin, Texas using a MARCII digital camera. A small number of images digitized for other electronic reference purposes in the early 1990s are also reproduced here. These images range from 1500 to 3000 pixels in length.

All of the digital image sets include a thumbnail image, a 640-pixel JPEG-compressed service image, and an uncompressed archival image. A larger JPEG service image (1024 pixels) is available for uncompressed images greater than 4000 pixels in length.


Specifications for Digital Items Scanned from Negatives and Transparencies

Uncompressed Archival Images

Spatial resolution: Approximately 1500 or 4000 pixels on the long side with
the short side scaled in proportion.
Tonal (pixel depth) resolution: 24 bits per pixel (RGB color) or 8 bits per pixel (grayscale).
Image enhancement: None.
File format: Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) ver. 6.0.
Compression: None.

Compressed Service Images

Spatial resolution: About 640 pixels on the long side with the short side scaled
in proportion. An additional 1024-pixel set of service exists
for some of the collection.
Tonal (pixel depth) resolution: 24 bits per pixel (RGB) or 8 bits per pixel (grayscale).
Image enhancement: Mild sharpening.
File format: JFIF (JPEG File Interchange Format).
Compression: JPEG at a quality setting that yields an average
compression of 15:1 for the 640-pixel images.
Compression is approximately 8:1 for the 1024-pixel

Thumbnail Images

Spatial resolution: About 150 pixels on the long side with the short side scaled
in proportion.
Tonal (pixel depth) resolution: 8 bits per pixel; palettes optimized (adaptive palettes) for
each image.
Image enhancement: Sharpened.
File formats: Archived copy: TIFF (Tagged Image File Format).
Online copy: GIF (Graphics Interchange Format).
Compression: Archived copy: Uncompressed.
Online copy: Compression native to the GIF format.


Scanning and Conservation Treatment: Preliminary Review

Special permission was granted by Dr. James Hutson, chief of the Manuscript Division, to scan selected original items from the Presidential Papers collections. These papers are among the most important collections at the Library and access to the originals is rarely permitted. Instead, researchers in the Library of Congress are directed to the microfilm copies of these papers.

The opportunity to scan from originals brought with it great responsibility in the handling and care of the inaugural addresses, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, and inaugural memorabilia from the presidents' own papers. These materials were carefully tracked during the scanning process as they moved from the custodial divisions to the Conservation Division or to the ITS Digital Scan Center.

During the selection process, careful conservation notes were taken on the condition of the documents and their housings if bound. Here is an example of notes taken on a draft of President Jackson's 1829 inaugural address:

In bound, red leather volume. Two oversize sheets, brown ink on cream colored, unlined paper. Text, in Jackson's hand, written hurriedly on 4 sides, with script stretched out, with crossouts, and generally messy looking. First sheet in mylar, attached to mount at left edge. Both sheets folded in half with paper tape on versos. Tape covers text on verso of first sheet but it is still possible to read text through tape. Second sheet not in mylar, but attached to mount at left edge and top edge. Sheet 2 needs to be opened out to the right to scan recto, then turned toward the top of volume to scan verso. First sheet [page 1; numbered 18] begins: 'Fellow citizens About to enter upon the duties to which as president of the United States, I have been called by the voluntary suffrages of my country . . . [and ends page 4] . . . domestic labour be made more [animating?] and happy.' At bottom of [page 4] in opposite direction to text of draft, it reads in script, in different hand?: 'Rough draft of inaugural address.' Scan 4 pages in all, rectos and versos. Printed number lower left page [1]: 18; page [3; 1st page of second sheet]: 19.

These observations also served as scanning notes, since they describe the physical appearance of the document, which dictates how it might need to be handled during scanning. Once scanned, the notes served as an aid during the review of the scanned images. Such exacting steps were needed because of the high value of many of these materials.


Conservation Consultation and Treatment

After the preliminary conservation review, conservators reviewed each manuscript selection and made recommendations about special handling including the permissible degree of opening if an item was in a bound volume. A number of the documents received treatment at this stage: to mend minor tears, remove mylar housings, clean surfaces, and otherwise stabilize the documents in preparation for scanning.

The development of the Presidential Inaugurations Web site project, and permission to scan the original papers, was welcomed by the conservators as an opportunity to review the condition of many of the Presidential Papers. Their review will undoubtedly contribute to further studies of types of paper, iron gall inks, silking, or lamination from previous attempts to conserve these papers and to decisions about how to house them properly for the long-term.

In the case of Jackson's 1829 inaugural address, the way in which it was hinged into the volume, encased in mylar, and the handling difficulties it posed for scanning meant that conservators had to remove it from the bound volume before scanning. It will remain in the Conservation Division for a special study on iron gall inks used in Jackson's papers and will undergo full conservation treatment to remove old mends and silking.

A large number of manuscripts among the Presidential Papers, especially letters and even drafts of inaugural addresses, were bound many years ago. Though beautifully bound in green, red, black, or brown leather volumes with gold lettering on their spines, the manuscripts are often attached or hinged to paper mounts--very acidic paper mounts--within the volumes.

While the actual condition of the majority of these papers is still very fine, by modern conservation standards, these are not the best housings for the Presidential Papers. Conservators in the Library review the manuscript collections regularly in an attempt to maintain these collections properly and allotments of conservation time are apportioned to a percentage of these collections annually. For example, George Washington's diaries have been undergoing many years of conservation treatment to remove them from early twentieth-century leather bindings in which they were attached to paper mounts by silk lamination. The silk used for this treatment has rapidly degraded, putting the diary pages at risk of being damaged. The pages are being treated to remove the silk and adhesives used in that process and are being returned to their original format using archival quality binding materials.

Even using a PowerPhase One FX overhead camera, hinged letters or documents bound in leather volumes proved to be a challenge for scanning the Presidential Papers, because both the manuscript and the volume had to be properly supported with as little stress applied to each as possible. Thus, a decision was made by the conservators about the degree of opening for the volume, usually 90 to 120 degrees, and a system of supports had to be designed for the volume and for the manuscript leaves to be scanned.

A special cradle was built for the Presidential Inaugurations project by conservator Mary Wootton, specifically to handle hinged manuscripts in bound volumes. Each side of the cradle, made of archival, corrugated paper board, could be adjusted to any height to accommodate the necessary degree of opening for the volume. Several strips, or shims, of this same buffered gray board were then stacked in layers under the verso of a page to achieve the necessary height of support beneath the leaf to be scanned. Further, buffered cream-colored paper boards and a supply of acid-free papers were on hand to use as additional supports and to provide a uniform background for scanning purposes.

Manuscripts were handled with great care, keeping in mind the specialized guidelines set by the conservators for handling each individual item. Sometimes scanning staff had to experiment with the positioning of the manuscript in order to adhere to the conservators' guidelines and, at the same time, to arrange the document so that the best image of it could be captured by the overhead PowerPhase One FX camera.

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