By Zoe Orcutt with Amanda Leach and Richard Marko
When we pulled the binder labeled “Hold-To-Light Copper Window Cards” from the shelf, little did I know that my group would be selecting a challenge. The binder contains postcards that reveal a secret or dual image when held up to a light source. While this is extremely interesting, it is also a challenge for scanning and digitization. We have tried many methods of capturing an image that digitally conveys the postcard’s duality. We first started by simply holding the cards up to our phone lights, while taking pictures of the revealed image on another phone. While this definitely worked for some of the cards, it did not work for all, and it produced somewhat slanted, blurry images.
When this didn’t work, we moved into a darker room, with photography lights, but still we used the same iPhone camera. The photography lights intensified the images shown through the postcards. While this was an improvement from our previous method, the image quality was still bad. Some of these photographs were also crooked and the light distribution through the cards was uneven on account of the angle it was held to the light. In all these attempts, we couldn’t avoid having our fingers show as they held up the postcards. This time, with the light behind them, they appeared almost translucent.
While we knew we were on the right track with the photography lights, we still tried our luck at using a photo-scanner with both top and bottom lights. I think we were really hoping that it would work and all of our challenges through trial and error would be alleviated with technology. The scanners we used were too sensitive to pick up the dual images of our postcards because they are specifically designed to capture images of film. Photo scanners only sense film when capturing both a frontlit and backlit image. We thought we might have been able to fool the machine, but again this did not work. We were only furthered in our quest to find the best process. What we have settled on, for now, has been the use of photography lights, a rig, and a digital camera to get a clean, consistent image of the postcard with light behind it. It is not a very time efficient method of digitization, but it has been getting the job done.
We know that some of our readers may have encountered similar problems when scanning images with duality. While our process is successful, we know it isn’t perfect. If anyone has had any experience scanning postcards of this nature (or other similar media) and can offer us some insight on to how to get a better image or improve our method, we would be happy to hear any and all advice.
The David P. Campbell Postcard Collection is a key collection of the CCHP’s Institute for Human Science and Culture. This blog series chronicles student efforts to make a select group of these postcards more accessible through an Unclass offered through the EXL Center and the English Department at the University of Akron.