Monthly Archives: March 2018

Reuniting Finley and Bohlman: A Supervisor’s Perspective

This is the third post in our series concerning the reunion of the Finley and Bohlman papers at OSU and OHS.  Brian Davis manages the daily operations related to digitization, digital preservation, and Oregon Digital projects within Special Collections and Archives at Oregon State. He deals with questions concerning digitization of analog resources including text and audiovisual materials, the accessibility of digitized resources, and digital preservation.


Have you ever worked on a project of this type/scale before? How did the Finley Bohlman project from others you have worked on in the past?

Yes, I’ve worked on a number of large digitization projects similar to this at other institutions. I lead a couple of large glass plate digitization projects that proved to be beneficial as I helped get the glass plate negatives digitization process going for the Oregon Historical Society. Newton’s Rings are something that you definitely want to avoid when you scan negatives and my recommendation to use Plexiglas supports that raise the negative off the surface of the scanner eliminated that issue. As for the manuscript side of things, I have done a fair amount of digitization of those but nothing at this scale.

Hand-colored, unmounted lantern slide of Herman T. Bohlman and William L. Finley sitting among the tules with five young gull chicks. (Herman T. Bohlman Photograph Collection, ca. 1898-1925 (P 202))

Hand-colored, unmounted lantern slide of Herman T. Bohlman and William L. Finley sitting among the tules with five young gull chicks. (Herman T. Bohlman Photograph Collection, ca. 1898-1925 (P 202))

This project was challenging for a number of reasons and many of those were separate from the materials themselves, having more to do with our environment. For example, we were scanning on multiple scanners in two different locations and it was challenging for me to get the scanning equipment calibrated in a coherent way. There should be a uniformity with the color regardless of what scanner was used and having two different scanners in two different lighting situations made building the color profiles rather complex. It’s not something that calibration software can auto-magically do.

As with all digital collections projects, our digitization workflow is dependent on the time and schedules of others since materials need to be prepped before coming to us. There were occasional delays in this process. Knowing that we had quarterly targets that we were trying to hit, there were times of panic when there just weren’t any materials available for us to scan. When boxes of manuscripts were made available to us, we put it into overdrive so to speak. I also stepped in and did some scanning myself just to stay on track.

Paper-based materials from this era are somewhat fragile, so there were bits and pieces of debris occasionally falling off as we pulled the materials out of the boxes. Cleaning was something that we had to do in between almost every scan. While it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of time to wipe the scanner down, when you multiply that times 8,000 it does add up. There were also structural issues with some of the materials and we had to use a bit of ingenuity to get certain pages properly imaged. This was also true for the oversized items, most of which were about four times larger than our scanning equipment. DPU digitization techs Valeria and Roxanne both did a great job handling all the non-standard items.

Finally, the sheer size of the digital objects we were working with pushed well beyond the capabilities of our underpowered and aging computing equipment. All of the files were scanned at 600ppi and each file is over 100MB. Not terribly large, but when you combine a hundred of them into a single PDF things can get complicated. The digital preservation part of it was even more complicated, but that’s a topic for another time. In total, there were 8,005 pages of manuscript materials that we processed/assembled/OCR’d down into 1,418 PDFs. The final file size for the manuscript materials is 1.12TB.

What was it like to collaborate with the Oregon Historical Society on this project?

At times it can be isolating doing the work that we do in DPU, so it was nice to make connections with others doing similar work. I set up a Slack channel for the group and that made the collaboration a lot easier for the day-to-day questions that came up. It was also fun to go up to Portland for the occasional meeting/tour of the OHS facilities.

What do you see as the largest the success of the project? The largest challenge? Why?

I think that the ultimate success was getting all the materials available online. In total, the Reuniting Finley and Bohlman collection in Oregon Digital has over 7,000 objects. You’ve heard the expression that too many cooks spoil the broth. That didn’t hold true for this project because it really took a lot of us to make this project a success. From writing the initial grant and overall project management down to the metadata and digitization processes, each of us did our part and did it exceptionally well.

Aside from the challenges I’ve mentioned, it was also no small feat keeping the other projects going in the Digital Production Unit. Although we focused on this project, we didn’t halt our other work or say no to other projects.

What was your favorite aspect of the project? Did you have a favorite item?

The professional relationships I’ve built with the Oregon Historical Society staff have been the best part of the project. As for a favorite item, I’m going to be diplomatic and pick one from OSU and one from OHS.

On the OSU end of it, I like the Getting Our Goat film. It wasn’t something that we digitized for this project, but I think that it has a certain light-heartedness and it definitely shows an underlying sense of humor that you can see throughout the collection.

Almost all of the photographs are great, but I really like this image from the OHS collection of an ostrich chick standing beside an egg. Aside from being a nicely exposed negative, it also shows that sense of humor.

What is the LSTA and what did it mean to you for the project to win this award?

Larry Landis and Shawna accepting the LSTA award

Larry Landis and Shawna Gandy accepting the LSTA award.

The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) allocates funding for a library grant program in the US. It’s administered at the federal level by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and at the state level by the Oregon State Library. The Reuniting Finley and Bohlman project won the state library’s LSTA Project of the Year.

It was a great feeling to be acknowledged, alongside our colleagues from OHS, for our year-long journey through the ups and downs of this project. Larry Landis and Shawna Gandy accepted the award on the project teams behalf.

It’s my hope that this award will shed some light on what the Digital Production Unit does and how our work is key to expanding access to the library’s unique materials.

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Reuniting Finley and Bohlman: A Student’s Perspective

This continues our series on Finley and Bohlman and highlights the work of one of our student employees.  Valeria Dávila Gronros is an Argentinean photographer, filmmaker, and digital films restorer, about to obtain her BA in Cinema Studies by the Universidad del Cine of Buenos Aires. She is currently a digitization technician at the Digital Production Unit of the Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives Research Center.  


What was it like being thrown into a project of this scale without any prior experience in DPU or with digitizing archival collections?

It was exciting and challenging, as pretty much everything going on in my life at the time… I had recently moved in the US from my home country, Argentina; it was a radical shift, and, as I was going through that transition, joining DPU provided me not only a job but a supportive environment, where to settle down and get involved with the city and with the university by doing something meaningful.

When I joined, DPU was undertaking its biggest digitization project, «Reuniting Finley and Bohlman», in collaboration with the Oregon Historical Society. The idea was to reunite the OSU and OHS collections online, for public access. This project was challenging in many ways, not only in terms of scale –8000 paper documents–, but also in terms of time. As the project was being funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the LSTA Grant, we had just one year to complete the digitization work.

I had a background in digital photography and filmmaking, and have had previously worked digitally restoring films, so I was comfortable within the digital dominion. But, as for digitizing, my user-level experience was nothing like the specialized digitization that DPU does… DPU digitizes archival materials from the Special Collections & Archives, in accordance to international access and preservation standards, using dedicated software and equipment, so, it was a lot to learn and to get familiar with. In addition to this, the archival environment was completely new to me, but my work at DPU put me in contact with that universe too.


You had mentioned that you were under a time crunch when it came to completing the project. How did it feel when you completed it?

I felt fulfilled, and relieved… I think we all did. At that time DPU was facing its own challenges. In terms of staff, for instance, we were three after I joined. For a project like «Finley and Bohlman» this structure was critical. By the time I started, half year had passed but yet not half the digitization had been made. Six months later we were finishing the project… The achievement was truly a team effort. Both Brian’s coordination and our commitment played a key role in it.


What types of items did you work with in this project?  Do you have a favorite item that you worked with?

Fortunately, among the 8000 documents there were diverse types of items, from manuscripts and typescripts, to maps, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and ephemera, such as postcards, letters, social events invitations, brochures, and the list continues. This diversification made the digitization interesting for me, and a great source of training and learning. As straightforward as it may seem, digitizing requires creativity and ingenuity, since each item is different in terms of shape, texture, size, color, reflectivity, etc., demanding, accordingly, different digitization techniques.


Digitizing «Finley and Bohlman» taught me that you have to be caring and patience with the archival materials and with the process, since it can sometimes get arduous. These lessons guided me all the way through the following projects, yet it has proven to be an ongoing learning. We are always challenged with unique items that we have never handled or digitized before. Those teaches you the most, and often add a little magic to the work too.


Favourite items? Yes! Well, I wish I had digitized some of the amazing photographs, but I loved digitizing the newspaper clippings, the maps and the postcards, because they were all image-based.


You mentioned how complicated some of the scanning was, did you have a standard procedure with each item?  Could you describe how you went about scanning Finley-Bohlman?

We have specific workflows for both paper-based and photographic materials digitization. «Finley and Bohlman» was a paper-based special collection. Most of its items were fragile, and many were falling apart, requiring a extreme careful handling and scanning. Besides, we often had oversized newspaper clippings and maps, that were twice or triple the size of our scanner, so we would scan them in several parts –from as little as two and up to six, or more– and then merge the digital pieces into one single image using Photoshop. The automatic merging tool would not always work as expected, so I would often merge the pieces manually. As making a puzzle, it was arduous and time-consuming but rewarding once got the final images.


Digitizing was one part of the process. The other was preparing the materials to the online repository. So, we would review each digital file for quality control, and while we would create and keep archivable PDFs from said files, we would also create a compressed version for online access (visit


After putting in all the time and effort, what did it feel like winning the LTSA award for the project?

Wow! The «Project of the Year» award came as a surprise to all of us, and it was gratefully welcomed.

It was the perfect way to give closure to a project like this one, that was different from the start because there were a strong interest and expectation regarding «Finley and Bohlman» within the archive community. Plus, a joint effort was made by OSU and OHS to set up lectures that would contextualize and disseminate the project, and given the relevance of these figures in the context of wildlife conservation, the project got the attention of the media as well. This interest and repercussion were great because it has drawn attention to our work, giving us the space to share our experience. I very much enjoy sharing this, so thanks for your interest!


Reuniting Finley and Bohlman

This is the first post in a series detailing the joint project between OSU and OHS to bring together and digitize the William Lovell Finley and Herman T. Bohlman photograph and manuscript collections held by these institutions. 

William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman with the umbrella blind in the tules, 1908 (William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS))

William L. Finley and Herman Bohlman with the umbrella blind in the tules, 1908 (William L. Finley Photographs Collection, circa 1900-1940 (Org. Lot 369, OHS))

William Lovell Finley trained as a biologist at the University of California-Berkeley and shared an early passion for birds with his childhood friend Herman T. Bohlman. Together, they developed an artistic knack for bird photography that provided an important body of scientific evidence. Backed by their keen observations and ability to communicate effectively with both policymakers and the public, they had a dramatic influence upon local and national conservation viewpoints and policies.

Finley and Bohlman’s activism, along with that of other Oregon bird lovers, led to the passage of the Model Bird Act of 1903 and the formation of the Oregon Audubon Society (now the Audubon Society of Portland). Their images also played a key role in President Theodore Roosevelt’s decision to declare Three Arch Rocks, Klamath, and Malheur as special wildlife reservations. William Finley worked for the state of Oregon for eight years, serving as Oregon fish and game commissioner, state game warden, and state biologist. Finley’s wife, Irene, also took an active role after their marriage in 1906, working as his field partner. The two worked together on several nature films and published a large body of books and articles on ornithology, wildlife, and conservation.

The materials in this collection are the result of a yearlong partnership between the Oregon Historical Society Research Library and the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center to digitize the Finley and Bohlman photograph and manuscript collections held by our libraries. Now reunited online, the materials represent over fifty years (1899-1946) of work to document and protect the diversity of bird life in Oregon.

Species names and descriptions are drawn from original metadata and may not reflect currently accepted naming conventions or terms. The Reuniting Finley and Bohlman Collection pulls materials from several preexisting OSU and OHS collections. These collections include:

Collections held at OSU:

MSS Finley – William L. Finley Papers, 1899-1946
P 202 – Herman T. Bohlman Photograph Collection, ca. 1890-1925


Collections held at OHS:

Coll 542 – Herman T. Bohlman lecture notes
Mss 2654 – William L. Finley letters and scrapbook
Org. Lot 369 – William L. Finley photograph collection


This project is supported in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.