Project Gado

Johns Hopkins University, 2011 - $16,073

Most mainstream news media, large museums and archives have already digitized their visual collections, making the photos widely accessible and generating revenue from license fees. But small institutions and archives typically lack the resources to pay for digitization, meaning that impressive collections are available only to the select few with physical access to the archive. An example is the Afro American Newspaper in Baltimore, Maryland, which has a collection of 1.5 million photographs spanning 115 years of the city's African American history. The archive cannot afford to digitize, presenting a major problem for scholars and educators studying minority history and for members of minority communities seeking to understand their own history.

The standard business model for digitizing an archive’s physical photographs involves the archive paying a digitization company to scan each photograph in the collection, generally by hand, as materials are fragile. This team has developed an archival scanning robot, the Gado 1, which can lift fragile images using suction, place them on a standard flatbed scanner, scan them into a database at full archival-quality 600dpi resolution, and place them gently into an output bin, all without human intervention. The project’s goal is to create a robotic archival scanner that small archives can purchase and assemble for less than $500 and use to autonomously digitize their photographic collections.