One of CCHPS’s primary goals has always been to preserve records of the past — official records, especially of the townships, newspapers, photographs, books, pamphlets, postcards, and other ephemera that provide a glimpse of the past and are at risk of being lost forever. (Wondering what ‘ephemera’ means? Paper items meant to be discarded, but valuable now as collectibles.)

We have “digitized” (converted to computer-readable digital format) some of the records of Hayes Township. We’ve just begun an effort to save the records of Melrose Township. If you would like to learn how to do this, and are willing to dedicate a few hours here and there to the effort, contact Director Jerry Hummel (231-533-4405).

Following is Jerry’s summary of his presentation on this topic in March of 2010:

The March meeting of CCHPS at the Boyne City Library Community Room featured a presentation by Jerry Hummel on “Point and Shoot…. History!”

With the availability of good quality digital point and shoot cameras, another tool for history preservation is in the arsenal of historical buffs. The benefits of making images of documents, pictures and artifacts with simple digital cameras include the saving, easy accessing and sharing of historical items. These can range from a simple image of Aunt Bessie’s favorite tea cup to entire volumes of municipal records.

Many items are lost or destroyed by owners who are not aware of their historical importance, either to a family or the general public. While the saving of historic items usually involves cataloging and protected storage of the item itself, the making of a digital image will assure that the fact of its existence will not be lost to posterity.

While limited accessibility to stored items is fundamental to their protection, having a good set of images for reference and use means that the items themselves will not have to be handled any more that absolutely necessary, thereby protecting and extending their life. The size of the artifact is no longer an obstacle for, whether a hatpin or a hay wagon, the items are reduced to a common format. Storing an image on a computer, disk or any digital storage device makes it easily retrievable. It also makes it easy to copy and send to others. The best part of history preservation is sharing the information with others who have the same or similar interest.

Hummel discussed the equipment needed including camera, easels, copy stands and lighting. As a minimum, the camera should have at least a 5 MP (megapixel) image capacity to secure sharp images, a flash control including an on-off feature, a close-up mode for detailed images and a tripod mount for steadiness. The point and shoot cameras produced today have many features in compact, low priced units. Some of the more desirable features to look for are a large view screen; large control buttons that are easily operated; a “super” macro or “micro” focus setting; convenient size; rechargeable battery; and “whiteness” control to compensate for different sources of lighting.

The use of an easel, copy stand or tripod is one of the best practices to insure sharp images. Hummel displayed a low-cost, simple copy stand which can be home built for flat documents. Also, he demonstrated the use of a table setup with appropriate background cloth for larger, three dimensional artifacts. Any setup can be adapted for point and shoot as long as it provides the three essentials of stability, a good adjustment range for the camera and light support.

The various qualities of light were discussed ranging from sunlight to 4800 Kelvin bulbs. When conditions permit, the most economical and color-true lighting is sunlight. Incandescent and daylight fluorescent bulbs can be used; however, the color rendition in the image is not usually true. This can be offset to some degree if the camera has a “white” light control. Hummel demonstrated the difference between the use of daylight-fluorescent and 4800 degree Kelvin studio bulbs. While the best lighting is produced by the 4800 K bulbs, the Daylight fluorescent bulb can be a cooler and less expensive alternative if color rendition is not of major concern. Regardless of the type of lighting, there is a need to be careful to watch for glare and “hot spots” which “blow out” parts of the image. This can be observed by viewing by eye from directly behind the camera and is readily checked in the digital review screen.

The presentation also covered techniques for digitization of local government documents and family records. CCHPS has experience in digitizing township records including books, journals, property tax rolls. In addition, many townships have birth, death and voting records some of which pre-date county records and contain more detail. Hummel discussed the CCHPS activity in Hayes and Melrose Townships and showed examples of digitized documents. The processes of setting up, test shots and production shooting were explained. The volume of township documents which could be saved through digitization is extensive. CCHPS will train work groups of volunteers to carry out the digitization activity needed at various sites.

In the area of family history, the point and shoot camera wielded by an interested family member can be applied to Bibles, certificates, letters, obituaries, photographs and artifacts. Hummel pointed out that sharing digital images can open up communication between family members and uncover a richer, in-depth family history. Hummel urged the attendees to give Point and Shoot…History a try. Everyone has family treasures to find and stories to tell.