Digitising Symphony Australia’s concert itineraries

Digitising Symphony Australia’s concert itineraries
Capturing of the Symphony Australia collection of concert touring schedules and artist itineraries
27 February 2012

In late November 2011, the Digitisation and Photography branch embarked on a trial of the SMA Overhead Scanners that are used in our Document Supply section. The intention was to test the use of these devices for capture of the Symphony Australia collection of concert touring schedules and artist itineraries, an archival collection documenting the activities of the A.B.C. Federal Music Department between 1934 and 1996.  This collection was selected as it was dis-bound, was predominantly text and could be digitised on an ‘as available’ basis (as we were conducting this trial amongst our regular digitisation activity).

A sheet of music on the platen

A sheet of music on the platen

As we had not had previous experience using these devices, we specifically wanted to learn as much as we could about our use of these devices.  We wanted to collect as much data as we could about our activity, including the number of items (pages) captured using the device, to have a detailed look at the time taken for capture compared to our existing Kodak Creo IQ Scanners and any investigate quality issues.  Throughout the process, we were to keep in mind some bigger picture questions, such as impacts on our capacity and consideration of extending the use of this device to non-music items. Considerable efficiencies were gained using the SMA Overhead Scanner as these scans took less than 1 minute per page compared to the Creo scanners which took 5 minutes per page to scan. The material we were working with was fragile and came to us complete with staples and in folders.  The majority of the schedules were typed on foolscap sized paper, and there were various smaller sized amendments which were attached to the paper with pins.  Anyone from a preservation background would know that staples and pins are not the friend of long term preservation, so our first task was to remove these.

Kerry at the overhead scanner

Kerry at the overhead scanner

The SMA Overhead Scanner is capable of scanning books and paper items up to A3 size.  It has a spring loaded adjustable book cradle feature, however as we were scanning individual pages we placed an A3 platen over the cradle to even the surface. The operation of the SMA Overhead scanner is unusual to us in Digitisation and Photography Branch as it is works differently to our Creo scanners.  The scanning head is positioned on a vertical column, which moves the scanner head down on top of the item, and is pressure sensitive.  Scanning was therefore a very different process compared to our Creo flatbed scanners, where the scanning head sits stationary below the item, underneath a glass platen.

Using the foot pedal

Using the foot pedal

We discovered the SMA Overhead scanner also has the option of using a foot pedal instead of a mouse to raise and lower the scanning head.  We tried it out and quite liked it. One of the things that caught our attention while scanning the Symphony Australia Itineraries was the historical content.  One specific example of this was our discovery of references to the mode of transport in 1934 changing from predominantly sailing ships and trains to air travel.  Another travel reference that caught our eye, was the fact that in 1963 Lois Simpson travelled by the now defunct Australia airline TAA, taking her cello on board.

 

Concert schedules and artist itineraries from the Symphony Australia tours of 1963

Concert schedules and artist itineraries from the Symphony Australia tours of 1963

 

In addition, we discovered details about world renowned artists travelling for the A.B.C. Federal Concert Department to capital cities and regional towns.  For example in 1961 Larry Adler, (the famous American harmonica player) toured for 15 weeks and played 46 shows in total.

Concert schedules and artist itineraries from the Symphony Australia tours of 1961.

Concert schedules and artist itineraries from the Symphony Australia tours of 1961.

We found the entire digitisation process was very quick compared to using the Kodak Creo Scanners.  We also found it to be an interesting exercise in high volume batch capturing because it is different to our normal activities.  It felt rewarding to produce such a large amount of images in a short period of time.  From our testing we discovered that the SMA Overhead Scanner would work well scanning books and magazines and any other text based material, in large volumes. The Symphony Australia digitisation project is ongoing, as we’re working our way to the end of this collection. At present the digitisation team has scanned over 5500 pages from the schedules, and we are currently up to scanning content from the 1970’s. Written by Jenny Whatman and Kerry Ball