I started to learn the XML language less than a year ago, now I am encoding documents for a professional university. The Stereoscopic Society of America is a group of individuals who are still active today in preserving the stereoscope and the stereographs along with them. I was excited to start this project because of my love for photography and learning about past techniques. I wanted to see how all the pictures would have looked like during the time but knew that the technique is long gone. It would be almost impossible for an average individual to view the stereographs as they were intended to be viewed. I decided to do this digitally, so not only can I view these images as they were meant to be looked at, but so everyone in the world could also see these images.
These stereographs show what Penn State Behrend was like at the time. The stereographs were all taken by Norman B. Patterson, also known as Bill Patterson, a former faculty member. He sent out the envelopes to others for their critiques on the images. This was a common practice within the society for each assignment given. On these envelopes, in particular, most critiques were about the subject and not the technique of the stereographic. The envelopes that correspond to the few images give insight on the history of stereographs and this society in particular. They give insight into the language used at the time and techniques and technology that were popular.
The first thing I did was scan the envelopes so I had clear images to input and read off of. Then I began to encode the typed and written word on the envelopes that corresponded to four of the stereographs. These are the main focus of the documents.
The biggest trouble I had was reading cursive on the envelopes. The last time I ever had to read or write cursive was in elementary school, I am a senior in college now. I had to pick and choose words that I could understand and form sentences or phrases around those words. Some words are still unclear and have unclear tags surrounding them within the code. I chose to do this instead of keeping the guess confidential because I wanted to preserve the material as accurately as possible. I wanted someone to see this digital information and achieve the same information and experience as if they were in the archive. This was also tough because language and how people talked to one another has changed as well.
I tagged the comments as XML ids so that you are able to search by a person within the document. I felt like this was important to follow from envelope to envelop, that person’s comment and see how they have changed over time. The only issue that I ran into besides reading what was said was being sure that different signatures were different people or not. Sometimes it was hard to figure out if people signing differently were the same people are not because at first, it would be a first and last name, sometimes just a last name. Most of the people who commented on the envelopes commented more than once. By following an individual, you would be able to learn about their language and what they like and dislike about Bill Patterson’s work.
After I encoded all of the words, I got started on the stereographs themselves. I started by scanning the images, front and back in order to use the images for a digital copy. Some images have plastic tightly stuck to the images, therefore some are not as clear as others. It is important to scan the images instead of taking pictures so that they can be represented better online. I used the stereographs once scanned to make an animation to represent how the images would look through a stereoscope. This tool is available through the New York Public Library for free.