Case study

Digitization XXL – Procurement of an A0 overhead scanner for the City Archive of Ingolstadt/Germany

The City Archive together with the Office for Information and Data Processing have procured an A0 overhead scanner in order to set up a Digital Reading Room. The aim now is to gradually digitize the estimated 37,000 large-format archival records of the City Archive in high quality and – provided legally feasible – to steadily make them available online.

Extensive Selection Process

Previously, the only option available in the City Archive was to scan archived material up to A3 size using the existing equipment. The newly procured line scanner now also enables large-format construction plans, maps, posters and certificates to be digitized. Digitization using traditional document scanners is not an option for these, frequently fragile, several hundred year old archives as they would not survive the procedure unscathed. The damage caused would be immense, not just physically but also financially if you consider the restoration work required.

To find the right A0 scanner for the special needs of the City Archive, an extensive list of criteria was first prepared, listing the technical demands and above all the preservation requirements.

Due to the scarcity of such large-scale equipment, the road then led to Leipzig and to Vorarlberg in Austria where various potential large-format scanners were inspected on site. Following an arduous procurement phase, partly delayed by the coronavirus, the scanner was finally commissioned. It was already delivered in April – making it the second unit in the whole of Germany in the manufacturer’s current series.

Digitizing Objects Gently with an Overhead Scanner

Digitization is proving to be the best possible option for optimum preservation, especially when it comes to protecting the original items from damage caused by their use. Because each time these large-format items are transferred from the cool storerooms to the warm reading room, it represents not just a mechanical but above all a climatic strain on them, and not only on hot summer days as we are currently enjoying.

The newly procured A0 scanner will bring relief here. Moreover, during the scanning process, it works with extremely low light with no UV or infrared radiation for the specimens, thereby meeting European quality standards in the area of digitization. The scanner also works highly efficiently and it can scan an A0 surface in 11 seconds (at 600 ppi).

But it’s not just the specimens that benefit from the advantages of state-of-the-art technology; interested members of the public also profit from it. It becomes considerably easier to view originals which are sometimes over a square meter in size by means of the digital image.
Desired details can be digitally enlarged and viewed by means of the zoom function – even in the comfort of your own living-room in the next few years, depending on the item concerned.

Thanks to the high resolution (up to 1000 ppi on A1) and the new scanner’s depth of field, individual strokes of the pen and brushstrokes in illustrations or structural details in construction plans which have even escaped viewers of the original or the building, can be clearly and unambiguously discerned on the scans. For example, in a conversion plan for Ingolstadt’s old municipal theater on Gouvernements-Platz (now Rathausplatz) from 1898, not only can details of the façade adornments be excellently seen in the scan, but even the erased pencil sketches. In the event that the original is lost, e.g. as a result of fire or another catastrophe, the future high-quality scans could also serve as a back-up copy of the item’s content. Nevertheless, they cannot and should not be a 100 percent substitute for the original, but impressively good copies that will never cease to amaze their viewers – including employees of the Archive.

Original publication and picture rights: City of Ingolstadt

More information about this A0 scanner can be found here

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