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Memorial University of Newfoundland’s newspaper digitization project to reach 100,000-image milestone with Backstage

BETHLEHEM, Pa., April 5, 2013 — The Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland's Queen Elizabeth II Library has entered into a new phase of a long-term newspaper digitization project with Backstage Library Works. This phase will increase the digital collection's size to more than 100,000 images, adding some 28,000 pages to the 93,000 already digitized since the project began in 2010.

Joan Ritcey, head of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, praised Backstage's work:

"We looked widely to find a microfilm newspaper digitization company which would create high-res images, excellent OCR-ing and software which would separate individual articles from long columns of text on the screen. Technically, Backstage has given us what we needed.

"On a personal cooperation level, the Backstage staff is very easy to work with. Our digitization people interact with them regularly and whether our communication regards the return of original materials or discussions around customization, we always get a response from Backstage the same day."

St. John's, Newfoundland, home of Memorial University, is steeped in a rich history that contributes significantly to the story of the making and life of North America. The Centre for Newfoundland Studies seeks to preserve and tell this history. These preservation efforts include creating a digital collection accessible to students at Memorial University, and to scholars, researchers and hobbyists worldwide.

Backstage is a partner in this ambitious work, providing digital scans of regional newspapers spanning the 20th century. Digitizing from both microfilm and hard copy, a team of digital experts creates archival-quality TIFF images from which JPEG image files and OCR text are derived, then combined into PDF collections. Backstage also creates METS/ALTO metadata, which provides users a rich search experience in CONTENTdm, the digital asset management system used by Memorial University.

Since March 2010, Backstage has digitized over 70 reels of microfilm for the Centre for Newfoundland Studies. The quality of the original microfilming does not always meet modern preservation practices, with inconsistent lighting and image densities causing prevalent contrast issues among the older reels. Backstage professionals know how to handle these unique materials for the best end-result, using technologies and practices honed through 15 years of providing archival digitization services and 25 years working with preservation microfilm.

Kelly Barrall, Backstage digital project coordinator, explained how her team balances the technical demands of the collection:

"A lot of Digital Imaging processes found in the market today rely primarily on software automation. Instead, at Backstage, our approach to the library's project is to find just the right balance of automation and human intervention. This means we apply custom enhancements or hand cropping to some images. We even refer back to the original microfilm when collecting the metadata during the 100% quality assurance inspection of the images, just to verify that the final results represent the original microfilm content."

All project consultation, profiling, materials preparation, scanning, metadata creation and customer support for this project will be provided by the Digitization team in Backstage's Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, office.


Joan Ritcey is Head of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University Libraries, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

About Backstage Library Works

Backstage's objective is to provide the most technologically advanced and efficient means for delivering professional library services. With over 25 years of experience, the company is known for its expertise in handling complex and unique projects. Backstage specializes in solutions for cataloging, authority control, digitization, preservation microfilm, and on-site needs. In providing services to more than a thousand libraries, large and small, public and private, and in locations across the globe, Backstage has cultivated an understanding of libraries, their mission, their operations, and the challenges they face. Backstage offices are located in Provo, Utah, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


Richard Covington | Marketing Manager
Backstage Library Works | Provo, Utah & Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Phone: 801.356.1852 | Fax: 801.356.8220
[email protected] |

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