Computer and Scanner

Digitizing Photographic History

Your historical society or library might want to host an open house so that people can bring in historic photographs and have them digitally scanned. As payoff for these people, you can offer them a high resolution scan to be held at the historical society to insure against loss or damage of the original, and a high resolution photograph and electronic file of their documents for giving to their friends and relations.

Objective: to set up the hardware for a town’s historic scanning party

Equipment needed:
Scanners are relatively inexpensive: a letter-sized scanner capable of 1200 dpi resolution is often less than $100, and an 11 ” x 18″ scanner is about $150. For any serious work in local history, a scanner is a must. If you need to buy a scanner, check with your preferred computer store or call MacConnection (800-800-2222) or PCConnection (800-800-5555).

Hooking up a scanner

USB B - Square

USB B – Square

USB A - Rectangle or Flat side

USB A – Rectangle or Flat side

Nearly all flatbed scanners use a USB cable: the scanner will have a square USB connection, and the computer has the common flat end USB.

Plug the cable into the scanner and the other end into the computer. Naturally, plug the scanner electrically into an outlet.

There are a number of pages on this site that cover file formats, resolution, etc. The purpose of this page, however, is for you to glance at a photo for scanning, make a quick estimate of the longer dimension, and scan the piece at a resolution suitable for that dimension.

  • scan any item or photo with a dimension of 8 inches or larger at 400 dpi
  • scan any item or photo with a dimension between 5 and 8 inches at 800 dpi
  • scan any item or photo with a dimension of less than 5 inches at 1200 dpi

Supporting data
Your file-keeping skills are essential for cataloging your photographic efforts, and these records are called metadata. See Inputting Information for details on metadata.

Gerry Stoner

Gerry Stoner

This article is one of several to help you document local history. Other articles will help you convert your interviews, documents, pictures, and artifacts into documentation of your local history that can be shared with your community.