Scanning: More Exciting Than You Might Think | St. Lawrence University Career Connections

Scanning: More Exciting Than You Might Think

Friday, July 19, 2019

When people have asked me what I’m doing for my internship my usual response is “lots and lots and lots of scanning,” but in truth I get the opportunity to do much more than that at the Frederic Remington Art Museum (FRAM) which keeps things interesting.

The digitization process has been going pretty well despite a minor setback a few weeks ago when I spent an entire weekend thinking I was going to have to redo everything I’d done in my first two weeks at the museum (over one hundred scans). Luckily it turned out that only a few things needed to be completely redone (whew!).

Still, I discovered that I had been doing a couple of things incorrectly and I also discovered a couple of ways that I could be more efficient. With the size of the collection that I’m working with, one hundred scans in is still early enough that making the necessary updates wasn’t a major setback, and these improvements to my technique will continue to make the process easier and easier.

In the last few weeks we’ve also been able to set up a system for quality control on the final images that I’m producing. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see fewer and fewer images being sent back for updates as I’ve gotten better at scanning and editing throughout this process so far. Once images are approved I can finally attach them to the appropriate records, bringing together the high-quality images and metadata that are necessary to make the collection searchable.

The Museum’s director has described me as the “pointy end” of a much larger project (digitizing the whole collection and hopefully making it accessible online and easy to use for Remington-researchers). As I put what feels like the finishing touches on each record by adding an image of the artwork, I can truly see the results of my work and it’s helped me to see my project in the same light, as well. 

I’ve also gotten to have quite a few fun experiences at FRAM in the last few weeks. The Museum occasionally offers art classes, and in my second week my supervisor allowed me to spend a morning participating in one. The class was on urban sketching, so we walked around Ogdensburg doing short two or three minute sketches. The speed was definitely a challenge for a perfectionist like me, but I still ended up with some drawings that I was very happy with. I also got to meet and chat with some very interesting people from the area, which was a wonderful experience that I’m not sure I would have had if not for this internship.

I also had the opportunity to talk with the New York State Assemblymember for the district one afternoon when he stopped by the Museum. He was very interested to hear about the project and supportive of our efforts to digitize the collection. The list of interesting people that I’ve had the opportunity to meet though this internship continues to grow and it is something I am very grateful for.

I am also very grateful for everything I’ve gotten to learn so far in completing this internship. Much of it is about scanning, photo editing, and museum collections software, but I’ve also found I can learn as much from the artwork itself as I can from the process of scanning it. 

Quite a few of the sketches I’ve digitized in the last few weeks have come complete with lengthy handwritten notes about all sorts of things from details about Scots Highland Regiments in the Revolutionary War to Army Scouts in the “old west”. Sometimes the figures or faces drawn are identified by name, which usually leads me to a lot of interesting research about individuals or moments in history which I may not have encountered otherwise (like the infamous outlaw known as the Apache Kid). 

All of this has kept these last few weeks at FRAM interesting as I continue to work on digitizing Remington’s many sketches. I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks will bring. Whether I'm making a few mistakes (but always learning from them), trying a new art technique, meeting new and interesting people, or researching the subject of a sketch, the last few weeks of my internship are bound to be chock full of fun and interesting experiences.