Newman Numismatic Portal: Building the Currency Library

This past October, I attended the Digital Library Federation 2017 conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was my first time at the event. While there, I was able to learn more about the digital humanities field and connect with others working on similar projects throughout the country. I also gave a presentation on the scanning process used to create the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in Saint Louis. Below is a partial recap of the presentation:

Our benefactor, Eric P. Newman, is a 106-year-old coin expert living in Saint Louis, Missouri. One of his goals in life is to make numismatic research as freely and easily available as possible. Thanks to his generosity, the Newman Numismatic Portal is rapidly becoming the most comprehensive resource for numismatic research and reference material in the world. Our initial concentration has been on United States coinage and currency, though we have begun expanding in to other English language materials. We do not handle the coins or currency, only books and paper research materials related to them.

The portal has grown quickly over the last three years. We currently have over 12,000 volumes, 10,000 auction lot listings, 3,000 biographies, and 25,000 encyclopedia records, with more added every day. To digitize our materials, we use an ATIZ overhead scanner and a Table Top Scribe scanner from Internet Archive. The bulk of our scanning is done on the Table Top Scribe machine. We have a partnership with Internet Archive so that they do our image correction, cropping, and verifying pagination and metadata for us. This helps with speed – we scan about 2,000 pages on an average a day. These documents appear on Internet Archive’s website under the WUSTL collection. They are installed in to the Newman Portal by referencing the original copy. Our Table Top Scribe can comfortably scan up to 8.5 x 11 inch documents. For larger materials, we use the ATIZ, which can handle pages up to 17 x 24.5 inches. We do have to edit anything scanned on the ATIZ in house, so the process is a bit slower. We have to get creative when scanning long foldout diagrams. For example, a student scanning assistant used Photoshop to stitch together several four-foot long diagrams in “61st Congress, 2nd Session: 1909-1910… Financial Diagrams” (viewable here).

One of the major projects going on at the Saint Louis scanning center is the digitization of the Eric P. Newman correspondence. We have Newman’s numismatic correspondence from 1930 to 2014, with over 31,000 pages of an estimated 32,000 total pages online. This is the most involved project at the office, with the team processing the materials from raw. We pulled the letters from Newman’s basement (a place that is reminiscent of the final scene in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, with seemingly endless rows of filing cabinets). We then sorted the letters in to a more organized arrangement, pulling out rusty staples and paperclips as we went. We read each letter for content, removing any personal correspondence that accidentally made its way in. Finally, we scanned the letters on our ATIZ scanner, edited the images, and posted them in to the Newman Portal. Newman’s collection of letters are on view at nnp.wustl.edu/library/archives.

The Newman Numismatic Portal is constantly expanding. Please visit us at nnp.wustl.edu, where the most valuable thing is knowledge.

Table Top Scribe

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