Going Digital: Sacramental Documents “Transfigured”
As much of the world prepares to celebrate Easter this Sunday, it seems a good week to feature an upcoming digitization project for downtown Baltimore’s Transfiguration Catholic Community: 88 precisely hand-written bound volumes which record the births, communions, confirmations and marriages of three city parishes dating back to 1842. Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP (Father Augustine), pastor of the Transfiguration community, notes that the digitization of these registries is an effort to both preserve the records and to increase the efficiency with which records can be found.
“Some of the ink is fading, the pages are crumbling and the bindings are wearing,” says Father Augustine. “These are the only records of our Parish sacraments and we want to make sure we have them for the ages. We get calls from those who are researching their genealogy or who would like copies of these records for various purposes. It is much easier on our staff – and much kinder to the original material – to be able to search and share electronic files.” At present, there are no plans to put the files online. “This project is first about preservation – saving wear and tear on the originals and protecting the data for the future,” says Father Augustine.
A Tale of Three Churches
As noted on the parish website, Transfiguration Catholic Community Parish was established as a result of the declining population of three urban parishes in southwest Baltimore: St. Peter the Apostle, founded in 1842 to minister to the Irish population at the corner of Hollins and Poppleton streets; St. Martin of Tours, founded in 1865 in the Franklin Square community to serve Irish and German immigrants and their families; and St. Jerome, established in 1887 to serve German immigrants in the Washington Village (still known today as Pigtown). In July 2004, the three parishes came together as “one canonical and corporate entity with an aim to streamline both management and pastoral developments for strong and vibrant parish programs.” St. Jerome’s Church, at 1001 Scott Street, became the cornerstone of the new congregation. Today, true to the immigrant heritage of its three founding churches, the parish is a wonderful melting pot of residents, metamorphosed into a “strong and vibrant parish with a new name and a new identity.”
The registry books are an account of the sacraments of all three parishes.
As Baltimore is local to Crowley Imaging’s Frederick, Md. service bureau, the registries were picked up, delivered and manually checked into the scanning queue by Crowley Imaging staff.
In the coming weeks, they will be scanned on a Zeutschel 12002 large-format scanner. The planetary (overhead) design of the 12002, combined with its flexible book cradle and LED lighting, will protect the registry pages, bindings and aging ink. The pages will be scanned as 300 dpi uncompressed TIFF images and also delivered as 300 dpi color multi-page PDF files. Some of the registries, such as the baptism records from 1867-1870, have very faint text which will have to be manually edited to improve contrast.
Notes Meghan Wyatt, a Crowley imaging specialist, “The registries are being scanned in color because of the barely visible handwriting on some of the entries; this is slightly unusual. The color will help to provide the best image and an exact representation of the original document.” At the request of the client, each page will be scanned with a slight border, including the gutter, to ensure that all data has been captured. In all, the 88 books will yield approximately 29,000 images. The PDF files will be named the same as the registry books themselves for easy access by the staff (ie: Baptism 1900-1910). Due to the fact that the registries are handwritten, the images will not be text-searchable.
The final files will be delivered on an external hard drive safely into the hands of Father Augustine and a parish that has weathered the tests of time, just as their traditions and records have also. For more information on the thriving parish today, visit Transfiguration parish’s Facebook page.
Questions about digitizing for preservation?
If you have any questions about preserving historic records through digitization, 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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