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- About this Collection
- Background and Scope
- Selected Bibliography and Related Resources
- Cataloging the Collection
- Digitizing the Collection
- Documenting America
- FSA and OWI Popular Requests
- FSA and OWI Photographers - A Portrait Sampler
- FSA and OWI Popular Staff Selections
- Rights And Restrictions
Most images are digitized | All jpegs/tiffs display outside Library of Congress | View All
Digitizing the Collection
Digital images made in the 1990s have provided reference access to the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information negatives for many years. In 2009, the Library developed a plan to rescan the collection and begin to provide digital images that more completely satisfy research and reproduction needs. Specifically, the Library will produce scans that fully capture the subject content of each photograph including the finest details and the full range of tones. The Library will not attempt to produce images that capture the physical or structural properties of the negatives (i.e. the film grain, discoloration, deterioration)
To determine the technical specifications for this project, the Library consulted with members of the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI). The Library adopted recommendations of the FADGI Still Image Working Group in its Technical Guidelines for Digitizing Cultural Heritage Materials. Additionally, the Library conducted tests to determine the limits of spatial frequency information (resolution) and range of tonality contained in the original negatives themselves. Using this kind of information, the Library will set technical specifications for each film format and type as the digitizing resources become available.
In 2010, rescanning began for the estimated 90,000 nitrate negatives, starting with the 45,000 35mm film frames. Each 35 mm frame was digitized at a sampling frequency of 2800 pixels-per-inch, 14 bits-per pixel tonal range capture (available as 16-bit), and in TIFF format. Prior to production scanning, the Library used a scanner test target provided by Image Science Associates to measure the capabilities of the scanning system to ensure that the device could produce a measureable output resolution of 2800 pixels-per-inch. Once production work began, the system was retested daily to ensure consistent performance.The images are adjusted after capture to produce a reasonable representation of each photographic scene, while ensuring that no tonal information is lost in highlight and shadow details and that the full range of tones evident in the original negative is also represented in the digital image. No other post-processing is applied to reduce noise, eliminate scratches or dust, recreate missing elements of the images, or to sharpen or otherwise improve the overall aesthetics of the photograph. Minimally processed images provide greater flexibility for making additional corrections and adjustments for specific output needs, such as examining fine details, adjusting tones to examine shadow or highlight details, printing for publication, image restoration, exhibition displays, or other repurposing projects.
Digitizing the Negatives in the 1990s
The digital images that first provided reference access to FSA-OWI negatives grew out of a special project to make preservation copies of deteriorating nitrate and diacetate negatives in the Library of Congress photographic collections. In the late 1980s, the original sheet film negatives began to be duplicated onto sheet film; in the mid 1990s, the 35mm roll film began to be copied onto 70mm roll film.
In the early 1990s, in order to produce a reference service videodisc, while the preservation reformatting proceeded, the Library produced an additional 35mm film copy of the negatives. The contractor, Stokes Imaging of Austin, Texas, produced the analog videodisc from the 35mm film in a two- step process. First, Stokes created a set of interim digital images with the moderate spatial resolution of 560x420 pixels. This set of digital images was archived. Second, the digital images were processed to create the analog video frames. Beginning in 1995, a new contractor, JJT, Inc., of Thorndale, Texas, reprocessed the interim digital images into formats suitable for archiving and Internet service. However, this reprocessing did not permit any increase in the resolution of the files.
The reprocessed digital files are, for the most part, what is presented in this online collection. The black-and-white images have a tonal resolution of 8 bits-per-pixel (256 shades of gray), while the color images have a tonal resolution of 24 bits-per-pixel (16 million shades). All have been compressed with the JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) algorithm. Uncompressed versions of the images at the same resolution are also available online.