Vol. XII, No. 2

Fall, 1999

Lantern Slides of Classical Antiquity Project

The Lantern Slides of Classical Antiquity project is now nearing completion of its first phase. The aim of this project is to place on the Web images from slides of ancient monuments that were in the collection of the Digital Media and Visual Resource Center at Bryn Mawr College, and readers should find the images on the Web and ready to be examined at http://www.csanet.org/lanterns. Many people have contributed to the project, including Professor Richard Hamilton (Bryn Mawr Greek Department), Dr. Jeffrey Cohen (Director of the Bryn Mawr Digital Media and Visual Resource Center), Terrance Rusnak (graduate student at the College), Kathryn Smerke (undergraduate student at the College), and Susan Jones of CSA. In addition CSA and the College wish to thank Katherine Singley and her friends Catherine Sease and David Walton for helping to fund this work.

Lantern slides from the collection were opened, cleaned, photographed, and scanned; the number of slides to be treated in a given sequence was determined by the funding then available. (A previous experiment had shown that opening and cleaning the glass mount was necessary for good copies.) The slides that had been taken from paper publications —and could therefore be taken directly in 35 mm. form — were set aside. All the others were photographed in 35 mm. format so that they could be used in classroom settings with standard projectors. The commercially prepared slides were then removed from the group, and the remainder were sent to Luna Imaging in California for scanning.

Four copies of the scanned images were returned to CSA on CDs — a full-sized image in one of the most common formats available for images (TIFF), a compressed version of the image for the Web that is of appropriate resolution for smaller monitors, another compressed version that is of appropriate resolution for larger monitors, and a small, "thumbnail" image. Though the original slides were black & white, the scanning was done in color. Experiments showed that there was enough color in some of the images (either from age or from sepia toning) that color scans provided better results.

The full-sized images will be retained for archival purposes; they will also be available over the Internet, but only on request, not as Web images. The three smaller sizes will be used on the Web site. The smallest, the thumbnails, will be used in indices so that users can see what is available, and the two larger sizes will be individually accessible to be called up by users.

The indexing system has been modeled after the one used in the Digital Media and Visual Resource Center at Bryn Mawr College. Grouping is by country, city, site, building, part of building, etc. In some cases, grouping may also be by museum. The aim is to have categories that are discrete enough that the general index page will lead to individualized indices with no more than twenty thumbnail images (and information about the images, of course). From the individualized indices, users will be able to go directly to the image(s) desired. Thus, a user who starts at the general index page should need no more than two moves to get the desired image — one from the master index to an individualized index with thumbnails and a second to the actual image.

This searching process does not rely upon sophisticated database-like query processes, but it does reflect the way slides are generally used in a teaching environment.

One particular feature of the Web site is unusual, and users’ comments about it would be especially helpful. Starting from a given Web page and selecting a linked URL, one normally receives the requested page in the current window, in place of the current page. Although it is possible to request that the new page open in its own new window (the process is different on a MAC and a Windows machine), that is not the standard result of clicking on a link.

In the case of the lantern slides Web pages, it seemed likely that most users would want to see several requested images together, not just one at a time. It also seemed likely that the typical user would want to keep the individual index available so that it could be used to call up several images. As a result, the system was designed so that, when the detailed index is used to call up an image, the image appears in its own new window, while the detailed index remains in the original window. The user may then return to the detailed index to call up another image. Each new image will appear in its own window. The result is one window for each image and another for the detailed index.

There is a problem with this system. The "BACK" command does not work, since there is no previous page for any window. Even using a link that leads to one of the open windows will not make the desired window come to the front of those visible; so navigation is not easy. Fortunately, there is a simple solution. There is a "WINDOW" pull-down in any Web browser; the name of each open window can be found there — and used to bring that window to the front. The names have been carefully chosen for the pages at the lantern slides site so that it should always be possible to select the desired window. That solution is direct, simple, and effective. But it’s not the way people are accustomed to navigating; so it is not certain that users will find this process to their liking. User feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Time will tell whether the indexing system and the windowing system used on this site are effective ways to make slides accessible on the Web — but only if there is feedback from users. So please help by looking at the site. Examine it, use the images, and let CSA personnel know if the site is useful and how access could be improved.

For other Newsletter articles concerning CSA projects or the use of electronic media in the humanities, consult the Subject index.

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