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Archiver > APG > 2009-02 > 1234148957

From: Ray Beere Johnson II <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Copyright Mavens - 1700s & 1800s documents
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 2009 19:09:17 -0800 (PST)
In-Reply-To: <ccf.494035af.36c0ef08@aol.com>


--- On Sun, 2/8/09, <> wrote:
> I guess I'm still trying to figure out why you feel the images are not
> of a good quality. Granted we all run into an occasional dark image or
> faded handwriting on an image or one that has ink blots across a page
> -- but the fault there lies with the original and not and digitization
> process.
> Why would you try to reinvent the wheel when the images are fine and
> quite readable to begin with?

First of all, check the pixel density of those images. While dots per inch - in itself - can be misleading, the census pages, for example, simply were not even scanned at a high enough resolution to make small details nearly as clear as they could be. _At their native size_, the resolution was less than 300 dpi (the image I downloaded was around 200 dpi). I read one study by either the Library of Congress or NARA - I can't recall which - that pointed out some italic typefaces - _printed_ words, not handwritten - became difficult or impossible to read in 6 point sizes at any scanning resolution less than 600 dpi. That impressed itself on me, since I've worked with 6 point type - it isn't an unreasonably small size. Oh, and my own experiments have shown that, even with monochromatic documents, increased colour depth can improve the visibility of faint markings. I've mentioned Heritage Quest - even their images weren't what I would have preferred, but
at least they did use a somewhat better resolution.
I'm not sure what application Ancestry used - and this may not be true of all their images, since I'm sure it changed over the years - but the image I looked at had - even when expanded - square pixels, which is less than optimal, as well.
Then there is the issue of contrast - the last images I looked at on Ancestry, as far as I recall, were for my own family. I _did_ print those out, just because it happened to be quicker than taking notes. They were several World War One - and WWII - draft cards for my mother's line. Not only was the resolution terrible, but the contrast was minimal - and how difficult is it to run images through a batch process that checks for contrast and improves it? Those draft card images were so awful, I've made considerably better printouts of other draft cards on the aging and ailing printer at my regional NARA.
I don't dispute the fact that some of Ancestry's images are readable. My point is that better quality options are possible, there are images which are difficult to read, increasing the chance they will be misread, and some that I could never read on Ancestry that I did manage to figure out on Heritage Quest _or_ from looking at the microfilm. That is reason enough, at least for me, to be unimpressed by Ancestry's offerings.
Ray Beere Johnson II

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