Scanning for Help

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

“A milling hugs and kisses” from “soldier man Glen”

By Rosemary Herbert, with Randall Slonaker

It seems fitting as Valentine’s Day is upon us to peruse our postcard binder labeled “LOVERS PORTRAIT VOL. 1” in search of an affectionate message from one sweetheart to another. We were rewarded by finding one from what appears to be a World War I soldier declaring his love and longing, in heartfelt words written to his “Dear.” The soldier even adds a thought above the picture on the front of the card – something that we’re starting to see with some regularity in our collection – which shows lovers embracing and gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes. ‘how I love to be this close to you my Dear,” he pencils there, adding the initial “E” above the woman shown dressed in a rose-colored dress and a necklace of pearls, and a “G” above the man sporting a World War I uniform.Lovers1_wtmrk

Along with the penciled message on the front are four printed lines of poetry about loving from “far away!” Then, the back of the card is completely covered with the soldier’s penciled message, expressing sweet longing laced with endearments.
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Here is the soldier’s message transcribed in full:

I am awful sory Dear that your Mama is not feeling good and I sure do hope she is all right by now tell her and dad I sed hello. I sure would love Two be with yous all two Day
I would give any thing if I was there two Day holding you in my arms like this picture hun. Well my Dear I hope It ont be long till I can and by the looks of things I don’t think it will be long till I will be back to you Dear well my Dear you will haft to excuse me for not writing any more as I have now more cards or any writing paper, So my Dear I will haft to say By By for this time but will drop you a card just as soon as I get to my Co so By By my Dear for this time with a milling hugs and kisses. I am as ever your soldier X
XXX man Glen XXXX

Spelling errors abound and punctuation is all but missing, but this only adds to the charm of the message, by delivering a sense that the soldier’s thoughts spill uncontrolled in this missive. While his use of “two Day” instead of “today” may be a spelling error, the sweetness of this overall message begs the reader to consider if the “two” was chosen consciously, to underline the eagerness of one to be “two”. Of course such speculation goes beyond the scope of our project to simply record postcard content, but as Valentine’s Day arrives, it is tempting to muse on such a notion. Beyond all this, it decidedly seems a privilege to be privy to one soldier’s thoughts about his beloved.

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.