Of of the hallmark changes of the mobile revolution is making cameras ubiquitous. While by no means is smartphone ownership universal, it is pretty darn close. Most people now have the ability to take a photo and thumb-type a blog post about it (like I’m doing now #PostedFromMyAndroid) in a matter of minutes. This presents incredible opportunities for researchers. Not only will future historians potentially have access to more material than ever before, but the researcher’s task in the present is made much easier.
Digitizing a document from an archive by snapping a photo is now commonplace. So much so that specialized photo organizng programs for academics now exist, such as Tropy. Tropy keeps pictures of archival resources collected by project, allows the user to create meaningful metadata, and critically, requires resources to have their reproduction rights noted so an absent-minded scholar doesn’t accidentally publish something contrary to copywrite. Sadly, no android version exists (yet), so it still requires mobile photos to be transferred to a computer.
But what of the photos themselves? In archives, researchers often have the privilege of interacting directly with the document, but if something is on public display it is almost assuredly behind glass. I have personally spent the better part of hours trying to deal with glass glare in my pictures and it is about one if my least favorite things to do. Fortunately, technology comes again to the rescue. Google makes a free photo-scanning app that uses composite images to digitally remove glass glare. Take these for example:
The difference is (literally) clear.
Tech like this represents some of the newest tools for researchers, made all the more valuable to us by deploying devices most of us already have.