Saturday, August 8, 2009

Research Saturday

Today was the monthly "extended hours" Saturday at Seattle NARA and I managed to get something done I've wanted to do for some time.

Those are some of the color chips found in a booklet the Navy issued in 1941 on "Passive Defense," which was their term for the camouflage used on shore facilities. The camouflage you've seen on Navy Yard buildings during the war? That was passive defense.

I'd never seen the colors used and no one I talked to had either, so the color chips were a great find. However, what to do with them? We need to get the information out, but computer monitors are so different in the colors they display that I couldn't just scan to a web page. Scanners aren't calibrated for colors and you can't normally bring supplemental lighting into the archives to attain a true "sunlight" wavelength light.

Ron Smith of AA Military Research had a couple of pointers given his research into WWI and WWII camouflage and photography of some of the original artwork produced for those wars. First off, a X-Rite (originally Gretag-Macbeth) Mini ColorChecker Card; calibrated colors with known values so that I can send the photos to another person with the same card and they can calibrate their output to match.

The problem was then lighting, but I got lucky in a sense. Ancenstry.Com has partnered some what with NARA to scan in many documents of interest to their clientèle, and they have a team in Seattle NARA working through some records for a couple of months. They have some pretty expensive "scanning" stations (calibrated cameras with natural lighting hooked into work stations running custom image acquisition and filing software) and I managed to talk one of them into letting me pop a couple sheets under their lights for a quick snap shot. Hoping they don't get in trouble for me mentioning that, but they could see that I'm obviously a "somewhat" professional researcher and was careful around their equipment.

We all win from their understanding though. I will have to finish scanning the rest of the textual stuff later (got 11 out of around 100 pages) and it'll take a while to post all of that as HTML, but I think it'll be worthwhile.

In other positive news, Alaska Airlines dropped the price of their fares to San Francisco from Seattle so I'll be going down for five days of research in late September. w00t!