C T Dyrness and the LightPad
In the past, Peter's family were avid collectors and savers, particularly of anything related to their family history or Scandinavian heritage. And they were travelers. As the current members of the family have endeavored to sort and thin the various inherited collections of letters, sermons, books, china, silverware, furniture, etc., they came across two heavy black cases full of hand-colored glass slides--all taken (or bought) by Peter's grandfather Christen Thorstensen Dyrness, most labeled (either in English or Norwegian), each 3.25"x 4" and wrapped in black paper tape. The vast majority cover two trips he made overseas, one to the Holy Lands (1922) and one to his homeland of Norway (1925). The lantern for viewing them was long gone, but Peter hoped there would be a means of photographing the slides and preserving the digital images.
Earlier this month, as we considered various Christmas present ideas and sales, I mentioned an Artograph LightPad to Peter as something I would find useful for various art projects. He immediately began thinking of how he could use it for photography experiments and for preserving these slides. We found a good price on Amazon, allowing me to use an old birthday gift card and a new wedding gift card to fund most of the purchase. The first lightpad arrived--flawed--but Artograph was very good (and personable!) to work with and we now have one that is working well for various projects (none of them yet the tracing of art and calligraphy).
The process quickly evolved. Our initial thought of placing individual slides on the lightpad and photographing from above quickly proved to be blurred and only half-way successful. We could see the image (diminished somewhat by the glare on the camera lens from the exposed area of the lightpad surrounding the slide), but we couldn't read any of the label C T Dyrness had written. We considered covering the lightpad to eliminate the glare, though that wouldn't solve the problem of reading the label. Our next thought was to scan the slide. I thought my scanner had a film scanning option (turns out that was the next model up), so we tried several methods only to realize that the best we could do was get a clear image of the label but a very dark image of the slide. Then Peter had the brilliant idea to leave the slide on the scanner, invert the lightpad over the scanner (propped up with a couple of encyclopedias, and illuminated the slide from above as the scanner captured the now-lit image and the label. After a little finagling of the crop marks, so that we could easily switch out the slides and have a more seamless process of scanning sans Photoshopping. It worked like a charm; everything about the slide was clear, cracks in a few of the slides were minimized or downright invisible, and we didn't have to create a separate document to list each slide. Some were even numbered, allowing Peter to get them in fairly original order.
As he worked, though, we noticed that the coloring of the slides left something to be desired! All of the Norway trip was colored less precisely than the Holy Lands trip, leaving us to wonder if the photo developing shop were of less quality, the painter of the slides more clumsy, or the ink or paint deteriorating. It was also obvious that the person coloring either set of slides did not know much about the ships on which C T Dyrness had traveled nor about the lands and cultures to which he traveled. The SS Leviathan, for instance, had smokestacks with a dark blue or black top and a wide red band at the bottom; the slide shows a red top and wide band of aqua blue. Orthodox Jews praying at the Wailing Wall in any decade would have been wearing black clothing or possibly white prayer shawls; the glass slide presents quite a [limited] rainbow of hats, robes, tassels, and trim. A shot of the midnight sun in Norway looks more like a stylized or even abstract painting. (See a sampling of slides below and the process to the right.)
Since we had itemized notes typed up by C T Dyrness regarding the Holy Lands trip, three menus from the SS Leviathan, a ribbon from the SS Stavangerfjord, and a scanned page of the SS Leviathan's ship manifest (found online), Peter decided to include all of it in the files he was organizing. He was able to give a disc of the scanned images and other memorabilia to his oldest aunt as a birthday/Christmas gift, and he plugged a thumb drive of the files into his dad's TV to give the immediate family a modern day slideshow Christmas night. Both a menu from the last night aboard ship and the page from the ship manifest have typos on them, so I guess that's no new problem; but this is the first time anyone in the last one or two generations has had this much of their relative's travels at their fingertips and organized.
Note: Lantern or glass slides were produced as early as 1848 and in use until the invention of 35mm slide film in 1935 and widespread popularity of home slideshows in the 1950s made the glass slides obsolete. Now, even the production of slide film and projectors has been discontinued!