Crowley Scanners and Bureau Serve Smithsonian Archives of American Art


Editor’s note: October is American Archives Month and a reminder of how important the records of our past are to our future. To celebrate, we’re highlighting five conversion projects throughout the month. So far, we’ve featured an academic reference collection for The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), Time Life’s LIFE magazine photo archive and the use of Zeutschel book scanners to archive the papers of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. This week, we are focusing on Crowley Imaging’s digitization efforts for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

Original sketch from American artist Ben Shahn, best known as a social realist. Digitized on a Zeutschel overhead book scanner utilizing PerfectBook curvecorrecting software.
This original sketch from American Artist Ben Shahn, best known as a social realist, was scanned on a Zeutschel planetary book scanner.

Archives of American Art (AAA) was first founded in 1954 with one simple goal: to serve as a microfilm repository of archival papers housed in private hands and other institutions. This mission quickly expanded in 1970 when the Archives joined the Smithsonian Institution.  Today – with nearly 5,000 archival collections, over 16 million items, and more than 1.5 million images available online – AAA is the world’s largest and most widely-used resource dedicated to collecting, preserving and providing access to the primary sources that document the history of the visual arts in America.

Meeting the goal of maximum access through digitization

A primary goal of AAA has been to provide maximum access to its collections for researchers, historians and the general public. Over the years, The Crowley Company and AAA have worked together to achieve this goal on several fronts. The first was in the early 1990s when the Archives of American Art purchased a Mekel Technology microfilm scanner and two Zeutschel A1 planetary book scanners to assist their in-house digitization efforts.

“At the time, there really was no comparable scanning equipment on the market suitable for large-scale or mass-digitization projects where the primary goal was online access,” says Barbara Aikens, Chief, Collections Processing. “The Zeutschel scanners were a major contributing factor in AAA’s highly successful initiative for digitizing archival collections in their entirety.”

Eventually, the volume of images to be digitized necessitated a degree of outsourcing. AAA turned to Crowley once again, this time for contracted conversion services through Crowley Imaging.

“We needed to expand digitization beyond our in-house capabilities; particularly for very large collections,” explains Aikens. “For our large-scale efforts, the combination of in-house scanning and contracted services gave us the highest productivity at the best price. Crowley was a logical partner due to their close proximity to the nation’s capital and the fact that they offered competitive pricing.”

Scanning nearly 500,000 images from four major collections, Crowley Imaging helped the Archives of American Art reach their 2011 goal of an impressive 1.5 million digital images available online – a number that continues to grow today.

“We appreciate the initiative of the Archives in managing their collections and have enjoyed being an integral part in their strategy,” said Pat Crowley, company vice president.

Read the full case study here.

Have a collection that needs to be digitized? Crowley can help with equipment or conversion services.

Since its inception more than 30 years ago, The Crowley Company has earned the respect of renowned archivists, institutions, service bureaus, libraries, private collectors, corporations and governments for a wide range of analog and digital imaging solutions. For specifics on scanning equipment and conversion services, please visit our website.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact The Crowley Company by calling (240) 215-0224. General inquiries can be emailed to [email protected]. You can also follow The Crowley Company on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.

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