Earlier this week we uploaded to our website a brand new set of manuscripts using Turning the PagesTM technology. The diaries of scientific exploration enable you to join Benjamin Franklin, Robert Falcon Scott and others on their journeys of discovery at the click of a mouse.

Turning the Pages has been specially developed by software company Armadillo Systems Ltd to enable museums and libraries to share their treasures via the internet. It allows users to view virtual books online in realistic 3D, the next best thing to having the actual book in front of you. It is a great way for us to increase access to our collections and to reach a wider audience.  It also allows for enhanced reading and study of these important manuscripts through the viewing of introductions, commentary, transcriptions and translations. Images can be rotated and magnified to fine detail.

Screenshot of a digitised manuscript

Click on the image to see a larger version (pdf)

So how do we create these virtual books? Here comes the techie bit….

The original manuscript is photographed by digitisation company, Max Communications. They capture all the internal pages plus the book covers and spine to create high resolution digital TIFF files which the Royal Society retains in our digital archive for future uses. The creation of such high quality images ensures that the manuscript will not have to be photographed again which is important for preservation reasons. Once Max Communications have completed the photography they then cut around the page edge of each digital image using image editing software and crop the spine edge to a straight line to ensure a neat fit once the pages are ‘stitched’ back together.

The images are then reformatted to the Turning the Pages system requirements as PNG files at 72dpi and 1200 pixels vertical height. This format achieves a happy balance between image quality, image load time and page turn time when viewing the virtual books online.

Once the images are prepared, I upload them into the Turning the Pages content management system. The measurements of the real book are entered so that the dimensions of the virtual books are accurate. It is at this stage that extra information can be added, for each page opening we can enter descriptive text, commentaries and transcriptions in cases where handwriting is tricky to decipher. We also customise the foliation and pagination to ensure it corresponds with the original. Settings can be tweaked to adjust functions such as the page turn time and the angle at which the book appears on the screen.

Once all the metadata has been entered, we then click ‘make book’ and the virtual manuscript magically appears before our eyes and is ready to be posted online for all to enjoy.

We will continue to add new manuscripts to Turning the Pages throughout the year so keep an eye out. In the meantime, have fun exploring the new manuscripts and read about one of them in this blog which tells the tale of the 1818 Arctic expedition to discover the North West passage into the Pacific Ocean. You can also hear Keith Moore talking about them on BBC Radio’s Material World programme – download the podcast from April 7.

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