Museum of the City: the "work ant" to put photos and documents online

Digitizing images and documents takes at least 15 years. This was pointed out by Quintili, who also made it clear that – when it comes to putting these documents online and making them public – there must not only be a hard previous work on the materials, but also an accurate choice of an open source digital platform and durable. All of that in a “a living and dynamic archive, which grows through collections that enter and collections that are added, “explained its manager.

The volume of the challenge

More than 11 thousand frames of 120 millimeters of the newspaper La Tribuna from the 50s and 60s taken by Joaquín Chiavazza and Blas Persia already digitized and that the Municipal Publishing House turned into a book in 2011; another 78 thousand frames from the same newspaper corresponding to the 70s and 80s; and the more than 25 thousand images from ancient daguerreotypes to institutional and family collections donated over 40 years are only part of the museum’s image archive.

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The City Museum has been working since 2019 on the classification and ordering of the Mikielievich Archive to which the collection of flyers and pamphlets belongs.

Added to this material is the documentary heritage of which the “Mikielievich Archive” and that includes more than 50 thousand documents: 54 volumes of the Mikielievich Dictionary (already digitized), the 28 iconographic albums with 1,400 referenced photographs and the “Journalistic Handbook” that gathers notes and documents related to the city’s media. The pamphlets and flyers that Mikielievich himself collected until 1946 and are also part of that invaluable collection and are the first materials that the museum installed through the open platform Wikimedia Commons, a free repository that houses content in the public domain or with free licenses.

This was the first step in a process of reorganization and digitization of the archive and that, in the midst of a pandemic, it was possible to do through a convocation of the Technical Support Fund for Digitization created Wikimedia and from a later agreement between Wikimedia and the museum. Now the challenge is to continue uploading materials, as is the case with the Merello Collection, which will also go to the Wikimedia Commons in the short term.

Ant work

Although now the agreement with Wikimedia allowed the addition of equipment, such as high-resolution scanners, the work has been going on for more than a decade. In the case of the images, Quintili pointed out that at the beginning they started with the oldest pieces and at risk of being damaged or even lost, such as daguerreotypes, glass negatives and other flexible ones, as well as color and black-and-white photo prints.

From that set of collections already 38 thousand pieces were digitized (30% of the total), which over the years as researchers and writers required them “many have become very symbolic images of Rosario’s history through books and publications,” Quintili said.

Although everything from Chiavazza’s images has already been digitized, the images from The Tribune from 1978 to 1981 are advanced by 20% and once that work is completed, it remains to be referenced, that is, to indicate which journalistic material each image corresponds to.

Added to that is the rest of the Mikielievich Archive, part digitized and part not. “The dilemma is to define in which open platform the museum’s need to open and make these materials accessible to all audiences and at the same time, enhance the archive and be able to host it over time can be conveyed”, Quintili explained, clarifying that it is “a difficult decision.”

And although he recognizes it as “hard work”, he continues to affirm that “it is also magical to discover how the collections are related temporally and spatially, they intersect and there are points where they touch”.

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