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Where There's A Will There's A Way - Digitization at The University of Mary Washington

November 9, 2016

The University of Mary Washington's Digital Archiving Lab in Fredericksburg, Virginia is currently
using Grace 5the Book2Net Cobra overhead scanner to help convert the Simpson Library’s rare and unique archival materials into digital formats.

The Cobra utilizes two high-resolution area sensors in combination with high quality optics, safe handling and LED illumination to enable high-resolution scanning of fragile bound books and documents of various sizes.

Ristech/Kirtas originally installed the digitization system at the university during the fall semester of 2014.

Since that time, the Cobra has been involved in several important preservation initiatives. Over this past summer, the lab worked in collaboration with the Washington Heritage Museums and the Fredericksburg Circuit Court Archives to digitize the original will and testament of George Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington.

The digitization will enable staff and patrons access to high-quality digital representations of the will, which can then be reproduced electronically for exhibits without repeated handling of the extremely fragile original document.



September 28, 2016

Imagine millions upon millions of rare, fragile books, locked away in some darkened room in the back of some sparsely patronized library, never seeing the light of day, or perhaps more pointedly, never being pulled out and opened by human hands; never perused by human eyes-- forgotten, awaiting further decay and disappearing from existence.

Over the past generation or so, the answer to this nightmare scenario, for many concerned, was to digitize those forgotten books. Digitize them and create preservation quality image files that could be used for storing, reprinting or sharing; to be available via the ever expanding worldwide web.

Now imagine if you will -- millions of rare, fragile books, digitized, locked away in some computer hard drive, never being displayed on some computer monitor; metadata and/or hyperlinks never being accessed via a computer mouse or the click of a smartphone screen. Backlit words never being read by human eyes, forgotten and waiting for that day in the future where the hard drive malfunctions and those pages, in the form of fragile bits and bytes, simply disappear from existence.

Digitization matters, certainly, but accessibility may, perhaps, matter more. That is a valuable lesson to be learned, but perhaps the greatest lesson here lies not in preservation or even accessibility of the written word, but rather in our own ability to take time, seek out and find what we need in the present or what we may need in the future. Sometimes we may assume that everything that is known, or at least, everything that we deem worthy of being known can be easily accessed with a simple Google search. We may also assume that, upon encountering the information, we need not place it to permanent memory in the vast vaults of our own personal storage drive of gray matter, because if it is forgotten, we can just Google it again at a future date.

Knowledge is a continuous wellspring of past information and inspiration in which we reach in and take what we need in order to feed our intellectual needs at present and to bring to fruition the dreams and goals of our futures.

At one point in the not so distant past, mankind would wander far and wide over miles, countries and continents-- hours, days and years-- in search of knowledge. Most of us have heard the stories of a young Abraham Lincoln, living in the backwoods of southern Indiana, hastily striding miles through unbroken forest and field to borrow books from his “neighbor’s” collections. We might ask ourselves, “Would we undertake such a physically demanding quest nowadays, or has the universal and facile accessibility of knowledge and information via the internet cheapened perhaps not the knowledge itself, but the manner and methods in which it is eventually acquired? And if that is the case, could it be said that the value of knowledge may not only be in the words and sentences that are read , heard or otherwise understood, but also in the manner in which it was sought after and/or conveyed?

These are all fairly interesting questions to consider and ponder over, but the fact remains that more and more, we are relying on digital medium to find, collect, express, and propagate our thoughts and ideas, whether they are thousands of years old or merely a few seconds old. The key to making information accessible lies, fundamentally, in the tools and methods that we use to capture, preserve and share it—and acquisition of those tools and methods is increasingly sought by universities, libraries and businesses alike.

So, all sales pitches aside, next time you wander up to that book-scanning kiosk at your local library, intent on scanning a few pages of an age old, rebound reference book or flopping down in front of your favored computer screen, rapidily tapping in a keyword search into your preferred search engine to lay claim to an obscure tidbit of popular culture trivia, remember that it is your own inquisitive nature and, in a broader sense, the unending human quest for knowledge that gives real value to the complex and high-cost technologies that companies such as Kirtas provide-- technologies that serve to help obtain some (but not all) of the answers in which you seek.

Ristech Provides the Solution to National Library of Medicine's High Resolution Digitization Needs

June 6, 2016

In 2016 the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institute of Health and located in Bethesda, MD has begun digitizing most of its historical materials on a “Cobra” V-Cradle scanner purchased from the Ristech Company.The devices are manufactured by Microbox in Germany, and allows for books to be scanned with page size up to 18 x 24 inches at high resolution, in full color, in less than a second. The books rest safely in a 110 degree book cradle and an automated optical glass platen descends onto the pages prior to image capture. The Cobra scanner has two 71mp digital cameras mounted to capture the left and right side pages simultaneously and output them as full color TIFF images. Several books are digitized each day with the scanner.The images from the Cobras are then sent through docWorks® from CCS Content Conversion Specialists GmbH, a software product configured to capture metadata that enhances access to the contents of the scanned volumes. This project will continue for several years and the Library is in the process of purchasing a second Cobra from Ristech to increase production capacity.

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The National Library of Medicine began digitizing out-of-copyright material from their collections in 2007 with a pilot project to scan monographs on the subject of cholera from both print and microfilm.Beginning in 2009, the Library expanded the program to include monographs from 1600 through 1860 as part of a Sloan Foundation funded Medical Heritage Library project. The Library continues to digitize monographs from 1861 through 1923, as well as scanning content from specific subject areas, including World War I and World War II. All medical content digitized by NLM is available online at no cost from the Library and via the Internet.

Clark Art Institute picks Book2Net Spirit

26 July 2016

The Clark Art Insitiute has chosen Ristech to provide it with the means to digitize their extensive collection of historically significant media. Using the book2net Spirit scanner, they can archive and make publically available materials that are too delicate to be handled by anyone but historians. This will allow a more in depth look at the beauty and history contained with its walls.


b2ns Established in 1962, the Clark Library has become one of the major art reference and research libraries in the country. Focusing on post-medieval European and American art, the collection is outstanding in the fields of Italian and Northern Renaissance, Baroque, and nineteenth-century French art, and the history of photography. Recent grants have expanded collections of non-Western contemporary art. The Library’s resources include approximately 235,000 books, bound periodicals, and auction sales catalogues, with current journal subscriptions numbering around 650.

Founded on the libraries of the former firm of Duveen Brothers (New York) and of the late Dutch art historian W. R. Juynboll, the Clark Library also holds an important collection of books on the decorative arts given by Mary Ann Beinecke and a collection of works on early twentieth-century art (with particular strengths in Dada and Surrealism) given by George Heard Hamilton, former director of the Institute. Robert Sterling Clark's outstanding collection of rare books is notable for its illustrated books, fine bindings, and literature in rare editions. Additionally, the library’s holdings include a collection of twentieth-century artists' books.

Arranged in open stacks, the Library is non-circulating outside the premises but study areas are available throughout its four floors. Terminals providing access to the on-line catalogue and an extensive suite of electronic databases are available on most floors. Wireless access is available throughout the Library.

Kirtas Helps McMaster University Master Digitization

April 7, 2016

With four libraries, more than two million visitors and a combined total of more than two million books, McMaster University in Ontario, Canada is a top ranked research establishment in Canada and it is considered one of the leading research institutions in the world.

The Library's William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections houses extensive archives including those of Bertrand Russell (1872)the British philosopher, logician, essayist,and renowned peace advocate; and a noteworthy collection of 18th century literature.

Like so many other institutes of higher learning, McMaster University Library faced the challenge of providing online, digital access to content that is currently only available by making a visit to the library in person.

The library has some experience bringing books from its rare collections into the digital world through a
manual scanning process, but the project proved to be a slow, arduous task. McMaster University Library began searching for state-of-the-art equipment that would enable its books to be released to the world and viewed electronically on a daily basis by its end users.

Together with their Canadian reseller Ristech, Kirtas Inc. was able to provide the exact solution McMaster University Library was looking for. The Library determined that Kirtas' APT 2400RA was best suited to meet their needs.

The main appeal of the Kirtas solution is its speed and dependability to handle books more gently than the mcm2 human hand. The APT system is unique in that the binding does not have to be removed or forced open at 180 degrees under glass for digitizing. Instead, special page-turning technology gently advances each page with the SureTurn™ robotic arm and safely holds the book in a continuous, height-adjusting 110° SmartCradle™.

"Previously, we had a number of flatbed scanners and a copy stand, which were able to scan some of our materials for digitizing," said Digital Strategies Librarian, Nick Ruest. “The Kirtas scanner has a process so that we can scan books more quickly.”

The Library plans to digitize much of its rare book collection (pre-1800 publications) as well as selections from the Bertrand Russell Library and the Library's general collection. The ultimate purpose is to make the collections more accessible to McMaster students and faculty and to outside users,through both online and print-on-demand services.