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
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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.