Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Digitizing the Saugus Architectural Drawings

SIW drawings in a protective sleeve. Digitization of primary sources is an important goal of our Teaching American History Grant partnership. The Saugus Iron Works Historic Site contains numerous artifacts and documents that are preserved in a separate on-site archival facility. As teachers were researching their history lessons in collaboration with Curtis White, Lead Educational Park Ranger at the Saugus Iron Works, it was discovered that the original architectural drawings dating back to the early 1950s were available in the archive. Arrangements were made to transport three drawings to the Boston Public Library digital lab.

  • DWG 413, ROLLING & SLITTING MACHINERY ASSEMBLY & FINISH PARTS SCHEDULE; DETAIL; 30 X 42"
  • SK 300, PLAN OF REFINERY AND ANVIL SITES; 8 X 12"
  • DWG 210, ELEVATION & SECTIONS OF WATER WHEEL; 24 X 36"

SIW architectural drawing on vacuum table. Align camera to drawing The BPL digitization process consisted of unrolling the drawings onto a vacuum table that acts as a reverse air hockey table. Since the architectural paper was thin and in good condition it laid completely flat. Tom Blake, the Digital Imaging Production Manager, then adjusted the high resolution camera's height relative to the table and finely focused the camera lens using a high magnification technique. Next, the computer initiated a controlled sequence of image captures while firing a set of light boxes to ensure proper exposure. The computer software then stitched the different images into a single TIFF. (250 MB) Captureshop screenshotThe resulting image will allow students to see how the restoration architects used the excavated remains of a 17th century waterwheel to design a full scale plan for rebuilding the waterwheel assembly. And yes...the drawings were safely returned to the Saugus Iron Works archive.

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