Monday, July 12, 2010

Behind the Scenes: Imaging Services

In this installment of Behind the Scenes, we take you into the world of the in-house photography team. Richard Everett, Head of the Imaging department, leads a team of four members of staff who carry out all the imaging services not only for the Library, but for the wider Trust as well.

The imaging department works entirely digitally. A wide range of equipment is used to cover the multitude of photography projects and jobs that arise, including medium-format cameras, dSLR cameras, overhead scanners and flatbed scanners. Working in three studio spaces, the team can accommodate all types of material: people, 3D objects, transparencies, glass negatives, books, manuscripts, paintings, and more. All digital capture, post-processing, digital storage and asset management is supported on-site.

Most importantly, the department has a huge range of expertise in many areas of digital imaging and contribute greatly to the range of services the Library can offer. Not least of these is the ability to advise and inform on strategy and procedures such as self-scanning in the Library, streamlining photography orders, managing overseas shoots for Trust business, and setting up a robust and sustainable image management environment.

The department carries out three main tasks:

"Ad hoc" photography, the domain of Photographer Ben Gilbert requires managing and fulfilling orders from readers, staff, publishers and picture buyers. Ben works closely with Wellcome Images staff, who manage the online picture library. Where possible, images digitised are made freely available on Wellcome Images. Most of the materials digitised under this service are special collections - books, manuscripts, archives, drawings, paintings and so on. Although the Library now provides a self-service scanner in the Rare Materials Reading room this is suitable only for private study and those who can visit in person. The Wellcome Library has a huge range of interesting visual content, and images from our collections have been used in thousands of publications, lectures, media events and more. Digital images can now be ordered online.

Project photography has become a big part of the Imaging department's work over the past few years with the development of the Digitisation programme. Most of this work is done in house, and complete projects include the digitisation of over 70 17th century recipe book manuscripts, 3,000 AIDS campaign posters, 600 glass plate negatives, 500 Arabic language manuscripts, and many more. Currently, Imaging supervisor Laurie Auchterlonie and Imaging technician Tom Cox, are working on a large project to digitise a series of archival collections, and the target is half a million pages over 18 months. This content will provide a basis for the Wellcome's ambitious plan to digitise a large proportion of its holdings to provide free online access.

"Corporate" photography refers to a third service the Imaging department provides. This includes capturing the events, people, and objects related to the work of the wider Trust activities and interests. Photographer Dave Sayer is the most mobile of the team, often travelling off site - to locations as far away as Africa or South-East Asia - to photograph Trust business. Dave works closely with the Trust's Publishing Department, providing images for Trust publications such as Wellcome History, Wellcome News, the Library's Annual Review and so on. Much of his work is taken up with Wellcome Collection events, such as the recent Billy Bragg play "Pressure Drop".

One of the biggest challenges according to Richard, is "managing increased productivity whilst maintaining the highest possible quality of service. That includes digital capture quality, speed of service, and ability to keep up with the pace of events at the Trust." The benefits to the Library are huge: digitisation of library materials provide greater access to them; and the flexibility and expertise of the team, the wide range of equipment, and the efficient management of content provides a valuable service to the readers and staff alike.

 
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