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The ‘Ksan doors in MOA’s gift shop

In April of 2013, I completed my first year as a Masters of Archival Studies candidate at the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies (SLAIS) at the University of British Columbia. Our first year was packed with archival theory, methodology, and best practices, and I was eager to gain some practical experience. I found MOA, my home away from home for the summer. MOA’s Audrey and Harry Hawthorn Library and Archives (AHHLA) is the perfect complement to my previous studies in Anthropology, Archaeology, and Psychology from the University of Toronto. I applied through the SLAIS program to complete an unpaid, three-credit internship, fulltime over the course of 12 weeks under the care and guidance of Krisztina Laszlo, Archivist at MOA and the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. I jumped in with two feet first and Krisztina set me up with a diverse array of projects for me to tackle. This is part one of a series that will highlight a few of my favourite projects.

The ‘Ksan doors in MOA’s gift shop

When walking around MOA’s large facility, it is easy to understand why visitors join the MOA membership. The concept of visible storage and the direct access to the online MOA Catalogue in the galleries allows students, researchers, and visitors to explore thousands of artifacts housed in MOA’s ethnographic collection. It would take a significant amount of time to view, research, and learn about each artifact on display, but I bet you didn’t miss out on touring around the MOA gift shop and walking past the large ‘Ksan doors. The museum commissioned the doors from a group of Gitxsan carvers back in 1976 and they were originally installed outside the museum entrance. The doors demonstrate a contemporary example of Northwest Coast woodworking skills. Made from cedar, the doors represent an origin story and were carved by ‘Ksan master carvers: Art Sterrit and the late Walter Harris, Earl Muldoe and Vernon Stephens. When closed, the four large doors represent a bentwood box and symbolically represent MOA as a container of treasured possessions.

Creating access to the negatives, slides, and photographs of the ‘Ksan doors was one of the projects I was assigned over the summer. Altogether, eighty-five images were digitized, processed, and saved. Digitization can be time and resource consuming and with that being said, it is imperative to ensure that it is done correctly the first time. There are many steps to take when digitizing a record but first and foremost, the process must strive to preserve to the greatest extent possible the authenticity and integrity of the original information. In this respect, an authentic, unaltered preservation version was first created; from there a duplicate version was created for alterations; and lastly an access copy was created with a smaller file size. The digitization process captured the highest quality digital image technically possibly and economically feasible, and the digitized images are able to support a high-quality 8×10” print.

Two scanners were used to complete the digitization process: the Epson Perfection V750 Pro, and the Nikon SF-210. The Epson flatbed scanner was utilized for the photographic prints, 35mm negatives, and odd sized negatives, while the Nikon scanner was used to digitize the slides. Setting the colour profile is critical to digital capture and simply describes the range of colours, or gamut, that a camera can see, a printer can print, and a monitor can display. For colour images, the Adobe RGB 1998 was used as the colour profile; and Gray Gamma 2.2 was used for black and white images.

Left: preservation copy. Right: access copy.
Left: preservation copy. Right: access copy.

In computer graphics, the bit depth (or colour depth) is the number of bits used to represent the colour of a single pixel in a bitmapped image. A 48-bit depth was used for digitizing the colour images and a 16-bit depth was used for digitizing the black and white images. The range of distinct colours available in an image file is directly correlated with the colour bit depth. Therefore, a high colour bit depth will produce a broad range of distinct colours.

Left: preservation copy. Right: access copy.
Left: preservation copy. Right: access copy.

When digitizing black and white images, it is important to consider the records condition. If the black and white image is very old, has faded significantly or is stained, then it might be better to scan the black and white image as a colour image. If the black and white image has been preserved well or is unstained, then the image can be digitized at a 16-bit depth, gray scale. Within the small sample of ‘Ksan images to digitize, I had the opportunity to try out all of these features.

When starting your own individual digitization project, begin by researching the history of the records. It is important to learn about the history or provenance of the record in order to

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preserve this information within the digital version. The information or metadata (defined as data about data), can be embedded directly into the digital file. By utilizing programs such as Adobe Bridge CS5, information can be embedded about the creator/photographer (including title and contact information), date created, the technology used, descriptions, keywords, the source, copyright notice, copyright status, rights usage terms, etc. A copy of this information should be kept along with the original or physical version.

Image a034444comparison Left: preservation copy. Right: Access copy.
Image a034444comparison
Left: preservation copy. Right: Access copy.

Accessing the records

The Archives is open to researchers by appointment on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Please contact us at / 604.822.1946 to set up an appointment.

By Lisa Uyeda