Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Short Lesson from the Archives: Digitizing Negative Slides with a Scanner

Approximately three weeks ago, a discovery was made in the back stacks of the NMU Archives. Records Analyst Sara Kiszka was conducting a shelf read when she came across a collection emitting the slight aroma of apple cider vinegar. This collection contained a plethora of campus photographs taken in the late 50s and early 60s, and the photos were beginning to deteriorate, producing the friendly odor and subsequent temporary nickname: The Apple Cider Vinegar Collection.

The negative slides contained in the Apple Cider Vinegar Collection needed saving quickly, and the steadfast solution was to digitize these photographs. Though negative slide scanners exist for this purpose, it didn’t seem at all reasonable to purchase new equipment for this collection, especially when the Archives already owned a scanner and efficient photo-editing software. Thus, an incredibly simple but equally efficient technique was born:
scan 1
Here’s a negative slide to be scanned.

scan 2
If we scan our photo now, we won’t be able to see our negative slide because the background of our scanner is black.

scan 3
The solution: A white piece of paper placed behind the photo. Now we see all the detail!

scan 4

After scanning, the photo needs to be inverted. With a little bit of photo editing, we have successfully created a digitized photograph!

Digitizing these negatives is the best thing that could have happened to them. Not only will these photographs be preserved forever, their quality was improved, and they can be made available to patrons quickly from around the globe. Most importantly, perhaps, is that this collection can finally be stripped of its Apple Cider Vinegar nickname and given the more appropriate title: Historical University Negatives. Soon, these images will be available for viewing here.


Written by Kelley Kanon


Collection Spotlight: The Tsu Ming Han Papers

1948. A young Chinese man braves the ridged and stormy December waves on a long 22-day voyage to America. He embarks with no knowledge of the language or culture, armed only with the belief that America is a beautiful country. As he watches the “Gio-Gee-Shan” (Old Gold Mountain) pass him by he looks forward to the future, not knowing what it will bring.

Recently, the Archives arrangement and description specialist, Glenda Ward finished processing the Tsu-Ming Han papers. Tsu-Ming was a geologist who worked for the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company starting in 1953. The collection includes an autobiography, awards and certificates, pictures, a photo album of his work in the United States from 1948 to 1951 and other materials about his research and life in Ishpeming.

Tsu-Ming Han was born on September 11, 1924, in a small village called Sha-Chu Zin in the Henan Province. His birth name was Shu-Pen and he lived with his large extended family on farms. Growing up in China during this time was difficult due to the increasing problem of bandits stealing food and ransoming family members. When he was a young boy, Shu-Pen was kidnapped by bandits for 55 days until his family was able to pay his ransom. Fearing for their lives, the family fled their ancestral home in an effort to escape the bandits.

Most of Shu-Pen’s family was uneducated; however, his father believed in the importance of education and eventually their family settled down and his father began a middle school. Bandits were still a problem but his father managed to keep them at bay by selling them drugs like heroin and opium.

When Shu-Pen was old enough he left his family to attend junior middle school where he changed his name to Tsu-Ming, a common practice at the time. He applied to a college hoping to study chemistry but was not accepted into the program. However, he was accepted to the Geology program. He didn’t even know what the word “geology” meant. In his autobiography, Tsu-Ming describes the difficulties of college life due to political turmoil and war.

Amid this strife, Tsu-Ming continued his education and eventually applied to schools in the United States. After a year of effort, he finally received his visa card and enrolled in the University of Cincinnati in 1948. There he met his life-long friend and colleague, Dr. John L. Rich, who helped him complete his master’s degree in science. On Dr. Rich’s advice, he spent the next three years at the University of Minnesota and finished his doctoral degree in 1952.

The following year, the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company hired Tsu-Ming as a Microscopist and he stayed there for the next 40 years. For the majority of his career, he researched pellet quality improvement with respect to compressive strength reducibility and low temperature breakdowns. Despite important contributions, Tsu-Ming concluded at his retirement party “My job during the last 40 years was a secure one. It was also a failed one. Secure because nobody knew what my job was, failure because I failed to communicate my findings to most of the people who were involved.” Ironically, Tsu-Ming’s accomplishments won great praise and admiration from his colleagues. He went on to write, publish, and present many of his findings at conferences around the country. Tsu-Ming’s most notable discovery was the world’s oldest megascopic fossil, which he estimated to be around 2 billion years old. By 1992, he published his findings worldwide in newspapers, magazine, and a CD-ROM for distribution to schools.

After retirement, Tsu-Ming continued attending and presenting at conferences. In 1999, he was awarded the Goldrich Medal for outstanding contributions to The Geology of the Lake Superior Region. Tsu-Ming died at the age of 80 on February 3rd, 2004. His wife still lives in Ishpeming. Dennis Han, Tsu-Ming’s son, donated the collection to the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives.Untitled-4

Blog written by Anne Krohn 

Feeling Inspired at the Midwest Archives Conference

A month ago I was lucky enough to attend the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) in Lexington, Kentucky. It was my first opportunity to attend a professional conference, and I learned so much while I was there. In addition to enjoying the sights and sounds of Lexington in my free time, I was also able to reconnect with old friends and classmates who are all doing great work at their respective institutions. I was proud to discuss the amazing things that the NMU Archives is doing, and I promoted our great student staff at every available opportunity. I was equally encouraged by all of the stories and projects that are happening at institutions all over the Midwest, and I hope to bring that same enthusiasm back to NMU.

During the conference, I attended sessions which discussed various topics including audio-visual preservation, ArchivesSpace (our archives management tool), outreach for records management programs, and improving social media in archives. However, the session that stood out to me the most was a presentation on electronic records and open source processing tools entitled “Not Everything Digital Is a Disk Image: Using Lightweight Tools to Assess and Profile Digital Collections of Files.”

The presentation showed how easy it was to view and edit large quantities of records just by using shell scripting and an Excel database. A second group member discussed an open-source software project out of North Carolina State University that makes the process of accessioning electronic records streamlined. As archives begin collecting more electronic records in greater quantities, institutions will need to address how those records are accessioned and processed. I am amazed by the work both groups are doing, and I hope to employ similar strategies here at NMU. To see a copy of the presentation led by Bertram Lyons and Jason Evans Groth, please click here.

In addition, Morgan Paavola (recent graduate and former Records Center Coordinator) and I were able to present on the Comprehensive Records Survey (CRS) project. (For more on the project, please see this previous post.) We presented on a panel entitled “Project Snapshots” which allowed us to share our work with a wide variety of different groups. We were pleased with the response from our peers, and received a lot of good questions and comments at the conclusion of the panel. We were approached after the panel by two different people who were interested in what we were doing, and who were excited to see the functional analysis approach to appraisal in action. After several months of hard work, and a few more to come, it was rewarding to see that type of response.

Morgan (left) and Sara

Morgan (left) and Sara

All in all, the conference was a really great experience and I hope that our presentation was able to inspire others. Next week, Morgan and I are lucky enough to present at the Michigan Archival Association’s Annual Conference in Holland, Michigan. Although we will be presenting on the CRS project again, we will be modifying our presentation to appeal to archivists or records managers who are completely on their own.

Click here to see Sara and Morgan’s PowerPoint from MAC.

Blog post written by Sara Kiszka