Need a Cheap Document Camera ?

By Marty Olliff

On Twitter, @CharlesKRoberts asked for suggestions for a cheap camera suitable for digitally photographing documents.  I use my smart phone or iPad to do this, but without a stand I get shaky images and am unable to take more than 20 or 30 shots before tiring.  Also, if I’m photographing pages from a book like the Code of Alabama or a House or Senate journal (my life is incredibly rich and exciting), I have to make the best of having only 2 hands.  You can imagine the quality of my copied sources.

So a camera stand is the only way to go.  State-of-the-art stands are really nice, but they’re expensive.  Well, they’re expensive to me because I’m miserly.  I’m also kind of a do-it-yourselfer and hate to see perfectly good re-purposable stuff go to waste.  So off to Teh Google I went, and found a number of intriguing stands to turn your tablet or smart phone into a stable document camera.

Searching for “document camera stand diy” led me to this guy and his PVC pipe:

That seemed a bit complex, so I found this idea on Pinterest

and this one at Green Upgrader

Camera Scanner Stand

I remembered we were discarding a gooseneck lamp, so I beheaded it and attached  my smart phone to the neck with an electrical tie.  Not pretty, in fact, it’s a Franken-camera.  I’m considering using a giant clothes pin as a clamp (with all the problems that entails) or some other method of attaching my phone to the gooseneck, but I did this beast in less than 2 minutes with stuff near my desk.  So if you visit the Wiregrass Archives and forget your document camera set up, we’ve got you covered!


What to Expect on a Research Visit

Everett Reading Room view#1

Although most of our research requests come via email or telephone call, many come from visitors to our Congressman Terry Everett Reading Room, pictured above.  If you plan to visit us, what should you expect to encounter?

The first thing to know is that archival materials are unique and cannot be replaced if lost.  Consequently, we take great care to prevent archival items from walking out the door or getting damaged.  We also want to make sure you find everything on your subject, even if it’s not in the Wiregrass Archives.

Tina Bernath, our reference archivist, lays out these steps to the on-site reference visit:

After greeting the patron, we determine what specifically they are looking for.  If no material on the subject is in our holdings, we try to help locate where that information may be.  In many cases, the researcher has too narrow of a search parameter and we try to assist with broader search areas.

For materials in our holdings, we ask visitors to complete a User Registration Form (or pull their form is they have completed one in the last year) and advise then of the Collection Use Policy.    We then ask that any items except cell phone or camera, laptop, and/or pencils be removed from the Reading Room and placed in a locker in our processing area, a secure location.

We then find out the specific box/folder they are interested in.  This may be information they obtained from the Archives website, , or it may be from looking at the in-house finding aid for a collection.

We pull the requested items one box at a time, and bring them to the Reading Room for the patron to work at their own pace.  Pencils and blank paper are proved to take notes.  Some patrons prefer to take pictures with their cell phone or camera, and others enter data directly into a laptop or notebook.

When patrons are finished with the current box, that box is taken back to the shelf and the next box is brought out, if necessary.  If the patron is finished for the day, after removing the archive materials, we allow the patron to retrieve their belongings from the secure location.  We answer any remaining questions, if we can, and then “Thank” them for using our archives.

We look forward to your visit.  Reading Room hours are M-Th 8am – 5:30pm, Friday 8am – 12 noon, or by appointment.

Meet the Wiregrass Archives Staff!

Tina Bernath, archival reference assistant, is often the first person a Wiregrass Archives patron meets.  She helps patrons with in-person, telephone, and email reference requests.  In addition, Tina accessions and processes collections, refines processed collections, and prepares extensive inventories, builds finding aids, and maintains user and donor files.  She is in charge of the quick reference (vertical) files.  In addition to her work in the Archives, Tina maintains the Dothan Campus Library’s in-house budget and is the point of contact for all Dothan Library purchases.

Tina’s been with the library since January 1989 when she began at the downtown Dothan campus of then-Troy State University Dothan.  She began maintaining the Wiregrass Archives in 1999 before a full-time Director was hired.

Tina attended the Georgia Archives Institute in 2001 and has taken workshops in photograph preservation and managing oversized collections.

Diane Sowell has been with the Troy University Dothan Campus Library and the Wiregrass Archives since she began as a student worker in the library’s periodicals section.  After graduating in 2011 with a B.S. in English Literature, she began full-time work with the library then became the processing assistant in the Wiregrass Archives.

Diane’s responsibilities include accessioning and managing incoming collections, processing, arranging, and describing new collections.  Diane ensures the tracking files are complete and writes finding aids per collection.

Besides on-the-job training, Diane has taken workshops in preserving photographs, caring for originals during digitization projects, caring for scrapbooks, managing oversized materials, and a number of others.

She actively participated in the most recent move of the Wiregrass Archives and assisted in creating the important Everett Collection Finding Aid.

Dr. Marty Olliff joined the Wiregrass Archives in January 2002.  He had served as the Assistant Archivist at Auburn University from 1996 to 2002 during which time he received his PhD in US History from Auburn (where he offered a breadth field in archival management).

Marty established all the founding policies and procedures for the Wiregrass Archives, and is the lead collections developer and promoter of the facility.  His academic appointment is two-thirds in the archives and one-third in the History Department where he is an associate professor teaching US History surveys, public history, archival management, and historical methods classes.  He edited The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama during World War 1 published by the University of Alabama Press in 2008.  His January 2015 article in The Alabama Review won the Alabama Historical Association’s Milo B. Howard Award for best article published in the Review for 2014-2015.

As for managing the Wiregrass Archives, he is wise enough to know to set policies and occasionally monitor implementation but to avoid closely supervising Tina and Diane.

Image of Wriegrass Archives staff, by Jonah Enfinger, 7/11/2013
Wiregrass Archives staff. L-to-R: Diane Sowell, Tina Bernath, Marty Olliff. Photo by Jonah Enfinger, 7/11/2013