Images are powerful. They have the capacity to inspire and inform, to enforce stereotypes or refute them. Getting access to good historical images, however, can be tough. Digitizing and sharing images takes time and money, resources which many small archives simply don't have.
Project Gado aims to change all that. Since 2010, we've been developing an open-source, autonomous archival scanning robot. Costing less than $500, the Gado 2 helps open up digitization to small archives with limited financial and human resources.
You can read all about it at http://www.projectgado.org
The Afro American Newspapers
Gado is lucky to be down the block from one of the best African American history collections in the world. The archives of the Afro American Newspapers span 120 years, and contain 1.5 million original photographs. They've been called a national treasure, and they document pivotal moments in American history from World War 2 to civil rights. There's just one problem; only a fraction of the images are digitized.
Enter Gado. We're using our machine to scan the Afro's photographs and make them accessible to anyone with an internet collection.The Wall Street journal hailed the Gado 2 as a "robot [which] rescues black history", and we're proud of that description. You can see what we've done so far at http://www.gadoimages.com
Our Secret Weapon: Alex Neville
If you want to digitize a big slice of history, having a great machine is not enough. You need someone on the ground to sort images, supervise the robot, manually digitize things it can't handle, and stand around looking awesome in white archivist's gloves.
For us, that person is Alex Neville. Since November 2011, Alex has been Gado's "boots on the ground" in the archives of the Afro.
There's only one problem; unlike the Gado 2, Alex needs to eat, secure shelter, buy overly-complicated board games from other Kickstarter projects, etc.
Here's where you come in. We need your help to keep Alex and the Gado 2 scanning, so we can keep the Afro's images flowing to historians, teachers and people like you.
Every dollar you donate, after the cost of rewards, will go directly to keeping Alex scanning and making the images he scans available online. With Alex's modest rent/sandwich requirements and our current scan rate, every $10 Gado receives will allow us to digitize 44 historical images, preserving them for future generations.
Speaking of rewards...we have some great things to give to you.
We work with Adoramapix, a professional photo lab. Since the Gado 2 scans at 600dpi (really, really high quality for you non-library-geeks out there), we can offer you amazingly high quality prints of some of the archive's best photos.
A basic 4x6 looks great in your personal collection, but on a 20x30 you can read the serial numbers on images of big WW2 guns or the title of sheet music in pictures of a band.
For the tinkerer out there, we also have Gado kits available, hopefully beginning in August. Build your own Gado 2 and scan your own 1.5 million image historical archive! Or your baby pictures. Whatever is easier.
We think Gado is awesome, and you can see what we have to say about it at http://www.projectgado.org. Or you can get a second opinion:
Wall Street Journal: Robot Rescues Black History
JHU Gazette: Digitizing a Visual History of Baltimore
Hack a Day: Automated Scanning for a Pile of Documents
Sparkfun: Project Gado
The Gado technology is made possible by generous grants from the Abell Foundation and the JHU Sheridan Libraries.
Photo credits: Main image, Will Kirk; Historical images, Afro American Newspapers; Alex Neville Image, Alonzo Lamont
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