Tag Archive for Tours

(Digital Collections) “And On Your Right Is One Of Only Five Cruse Large-Format Scanners In Texas”: Tips From the Tour-Guiding Trenches

If this picture were a movie title, it would be The Men Who Stare at George W. Truett: Former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards receives a demo from Eric Ames and Darryl Stuhr during a tour of the RDC.

Since opening our doors in October 2008, the Riley Digitization Center has hosted dozens of groups for tours, demos, information sessions, mingling, and general collegial carousing. Baylor presidents, regents, library fellows, donors, academics, provosts from other universities, students (graduate and undergraduate), former congressmen, football players – the list is almost endless.

Over the course of five years we’ve learned a great deal about what makes for a good tour, from knowing your audience to staging the scene and providing informative handouts. Below, we’ve outlined some tips for other digitization and archival colleagues who might find yourselves hosting a get-together.

Tip One: Know Your Audience

What’s true for marketing is true for tours: know whom you’ll be addressing before they arrive. That means going beyond the basics (how many? are they affiliated with a particular group? any special interests?) and into advanced work like inquiring after any special considerations regarding physical access, past giving habits or other philanthropic work, hobbies, political affiliations, even whether they recently went on a trip somewhere special (that happens to relate to items from one of your collections!).

If you suspect the tour may lead to a possible gift or other collaboration, be sure to do some research into what kinds of parameters they may have set on past contributions. For example, if you suspect a potential donor may be interested in providing funds to support an ongoing project, be sure to have plenty of examples from that collection available for perusal and schedule some time for in-depth conversation as part of the tour. It also pays to have someone available on your tour team with expertise in your visitor’s interest area. This person can serve as a confidante or intermediary during the tour and help guide conversations toward ways they can help support the project.

Tip Two: Set the Stage

What do selling a house, putting on a theatrical production and providing a tour of a digitization center have in common? They all require attention to appropriate staging. Odds are, your visitors have never been in a place like this before, so it’s up to you to make them feel comfortable and welcome in a situation that may be far outside their comfort zones.

As much as possible, arrange your work area to provide plenty of room for people to move about comfortably, and be sure to do the little things like tiding up a workstation or vacuuming the floors. Be sure doors are unlocked (unless they’re keeping a restricted area off-limits for the tour) and replace any burned-out light bulbs. Wash windows, water the plants – the usual things we do right before an in-law or realtor comes calling.

When it’s time to choose physical items to display, look for eye-catching examples that are safe to be handled by staff as well as visitors. Visitors love to hold items you’re digitizing, so only put things out for display that won’t be negatively impacted if someone asks to hold them. It also pays to have a “show-stopper” piece to display at some point during the tour. Superlatives like, “oldest,” “biggest,” “only one in the world” and “rarest” are always attention-grabbers and can revive flagging interest (if the tour has been going on a for awhile) or seal the deal when it comes time to make “the ask.”

Tip Three: Practice Makes Perfect

Maybe you only give one tour a year. Maybe you’re brushing the dog and currying the pony once a week. Either way, it pays to practice what you’ll be presenting to your visitors in advance. Our team has done the standard “nickel tour” of the RDC so many times we can probably do it in our sleep, but we always try to get together beforehand and discuss anything that might be new, different or challenging about that day’s tour. High-level visitors – a major donor, the Board of Regents, the Boss (our dean, not Bruce Springsteen) – warrant more practice time, of course, but even if you can only carve out five minutes to get together beforehand, it will pay off.

Tip Four: The Little Things That Thrill

After you’ve done your groundwork, staged your office and practiced the spiel, true success on a tour can come down to the use of some “small touches” that really speak to your audience. Some of the things we’ve seen make a big impact include:

–       Creating a sign to welcome the group by name. Nothing excites a tour group quite the same as a sign that says, “Welcome to the Riley Digitization Center, Cat Fancy Magazine Subscribers of Central Texas!”

–       Wear a tie (or a coat, or a jacket, or all three). Even if your usual workaday attire involves an ironic t-shirt and black Converse tennis shoes, take the time to spruce yourself up for a tour. They’ll notice if the team is all wearing their Sunday best – and, alternately, they’ll notice the one guy that didn’t get the memo, so don’t be “that guy.”

–       Have a sense of humor. I can think of only a couple of tours where the visitors and subject matter were so serious that a joke or two would have felt out of place. Most people love a good laugh, even if it’s at a corny “because we’re a Baptist university we save these files ‘forever and ever, amen’” kind of joke. Often, you’ll find a group has its own corporate sense of humor, and tapping into it can lead to a bond that would be missed otherwise.

–       Wear your nametag. Even if there’s only one of you. People need reminders.

–       Be flexible. Some people get really hung up/excited about one particular piece of equipment or want to know more about one project at the expense of spending more time looking at something else. This is okay. In fact, it can be helpful to explore those interests further, as it may lead to gifts, loans or other support.

–       Prepare your handouts. Flyers, posters, trinkets, whatever: people love a takeaway, and if it happens to provide them with the URL for your digital collections or your Facebook page, all the better.

–       Have a good anecdote or fact ready at all times. Know the stories hiding in your collections and be ready to tell them when one of your visitors uses a key word that can serve as a segue. For instance, any time someone says the words “my grandfather went to Baylor,” I can take them to a computer, open the Baylor University Lariat collection and do a keyword search for their grandfather’s name, and more often than not, he’ll be there.


These are just a few things to keep in mind the next time someone takes time out of their schedules to come learn more about what you do. Remember: you’re doing them a favor, but they’re doing you one, too. Anyone who walks in your door could turn into your next major donor, advocate or employee, so give them plenty of reasons to remember their visit fondly.

(Digital Collections) Tools of the Trade: The Specialized Scanners of the RDC

Following an encounter with one of the Dark Knight’s trademark high-tech gadgets in Tim Burton’s 1989 film “Batman,” the Joker famously quipped, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” We get a similar question – thankfully, from people of better moral character – when people see the specialized scanners the Riley Digitization Center uses to carry out the digitization projects we undertake every day.

So let us take this opportunity to address your burning questions about how our talented team creates digital versions of objects as small as a pocket hymnal, as lengthy as a 1,000-page shipping manifest, or as large as an official portrait of a past Baylor University president.

 Graduate assistant Hannah Mason digitizes Apollo 11 mission art for an exhibit in the Poage Legislative Library

The Jack-of-All-Trades: the Zeutschel Omniscan 10000

Our tour starts with the oldest of our three specialized scanners, the Zeutschel Omniscan 10000. With a name like “Zeutschel,” you’ve probably guessed it can only come from one place: Germany. Designed to handle rare and fragile books with care and precision, the Zeutschel can accommodate items up to 17 in. x 24 in. in size. It is most effective with bound items, as its adjustable platform allows books with damaged spines to be laid open for scanning without applying undue pressure that could cause further damage.

In addition to its skillful handling of fragile books, we’ve also found the Zeutschel quite adept at processing items from the Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. The scanner can be configured to create preservation and access images of both a left and right page from a music score in a single pass, a much more efficient way to scan than imaging one page at a time.

The Speed Demon: the Kirtas APT-2400

For bound items, there’s no faster solution in the RDC than the Kirtas APT-2400. This automatic page turning book imager (it uses cameras to snap an image as opposed to a progressive scan, hence the term “book imager” and not “scanner”) utilizes a vacuum head mechanism to turn the book’s pages before clamps hold the pages open and the cameras image both left and right pages simultaneously. Sound complex? The video below may help clarify things a bit.

Kirtas APT in action via Kirtas Technologies and YouTube

The Kirtas has been a workhorse for the RDC, with more than half a million pages digitized in just over two years. From bound oral history transcripts to the only copy of a shipping company’s manifests, the Kirtas makes large scale digitization of bound materials fast, efficient and safe.

The “Big Guy”: the Cruse CS285st large format scanner

When it comes to the “big iron” of the RDC, the Cruse large format scanner is second to none. With effective scanning parameters of 5 ft. x 8 ft., the Cruse is ideally suited to digitizing large format items like maps, framed works of art on canvas, and newspapers. In fact, the Cruse was in heavy rotation for the nearly year-long process of digitizing the full run of the Baylor Lariat, the campus newspaper that dates back to 1900. A Cruse operator could place up to ten issues of the Lariat on the scanning platform at a time, creating up to 20 images in a single pass.

Above is an image of an issue of the Lariat as it passes under the Cruse’s light rig. The UV-filtered lights provide even lighting across the item’s surface and create no unnecessary levels of light on items that may be photosensitive. In this way, the DPG digitized all 13 official portraits of Baylor’s storied line of university presidents, including the familiar face of Pat M. Neff (president from 1932-1947).

Official portrait of Pat M. Neff, former Texas govenor and Baylor University president

So next time you’re perusing our collections and wonder how we got a 34 in. long panoramic photo condensed down to the size of your computer monitor, remember these “wonderful toys” found at the RDC. We’re fortunate and excited to have them, and that’s no joke.

(Digital Collections) A Visit From Rep. Chet Edwards

Former U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards in his office at Poage Legislative Library

Baylor University recently announced that former U.S. Congressman Chet Edwards was appointed the W.R. Poage Distinguished Chair for Public Service, an honor that was accompanied with the news that his congressional papers would be housed in the Poage Legislative Library on campus.

A few weeks prior to the announcement, Congressman Edwards toured the Riley Digitization Center and learned more about our capabilities to digitize large archival holdings. Edwards was very interested in how we are able to turn hundreds of feet of paper records into searchable, remotely accessible digital objects. As his records will also contain materials on audio/visual formats like DVD, VHS tapes, and Umatic tapes (like Beta), Edwards was also impressed with the Riley Center’s video and audio migration technology.

Above, Assistant VP for the Electronic Library Tim Logan shows Rep. Edwards a 16” radio transcription disc while Darryl Stuhr, Manager of Digitization Projects, looks on at left. The disc was placed on a turntable in the radio studio and cut live as the broadcast was under way. An interesting thing to note on discs of this size is the second hole in the center; the extra weight of such a large disc could cause it to wobble during recording, so the second hole in the center fit over a second spindle for added stability.

Prior to his visit, Rep. Edwards had mentioned the impact a speech by George W. Truett had on his development as a legislator. That speech, “Baptists and Religious Liberty,” was delivered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in 1920 while Truett was in Washington, D.C. for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Edwards spoke fondly of his appreciation for the speech, and we were excited to be able to pull up a digital copy available in our Institute of Church-State Studies Vertical File Collection. Below, Curator of Digital Collections Eric Ames shows Rep. Edwards the digital copy of that speech, reprinted in the October 1981 issue of the “Baptist Standard.”


We are excited to work with Rep. Edwards as he develops his congressional papers for use by students, scholars, and interested parties around the world. They will serve as a unique and invaluable asset to those seeking a deeper understanding of American politics, geopolitical relations and his beliefs on the subject of leadership.

(1) Photos of Edwards’ tour by Allyson Riley