The Collection > Project Methodology
As the study of popular culture and cultural history has expanded, increasing numbers of scholars have requested the issues of Ling long magazine held by the C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University. The library holds one of the longest runs available outside China and provides a wealth of cultural information about a decade of great importance in the history of twentieth-century China. Unfortunately, the popular weekly magazine, published for a newly emerging urban women's market, was published on cheap acidic paper. By the 1990s, the paper was extremely brittle and fragile.
In 1997, the Columbia University Libraries received funding from the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia to create a digital version of Ling long. Since microfilm is still the most stable preservation medium available, the first step was to create a complete microfilm of the magazine according to standard preservation procedures. The master negative has been placed in archival storage in perpetuity. Positive copies of the film can be ordered by individuals or institutions who wish to own copies by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
To create the initial digital version, the black-and-white microfilm was scanned bitonally at 600 dots per inch on a SunRise SRI-50 scanner by Preservation Resources of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which also did the actual microfilming. The purpose in scanning the film rather than the original volumes was to limit the amount of handling the brittle originals would be subjected to. TIFF files were delivered to Columbia along with a data file associating each volume, issue, and page to the correct file names. The 600 dpi TIFF files, stored using lossless CCITT Fax 4 compression, along with the data file constitute the digital archive for Ling long.
Lower-resolution versions were then derived from the master files by Columbia's Academic Information Systems. For each page an inline GIF image was created and optimized for screen viewing as a 600x1000 pixels in 4-bit gray-scale.
However, since the magazine consists of text accompanied by a large number of graphics, many in color, black-and-white microfilm was not seen as a sufficient means of preservation, nor would it be satisfactory for those scholars whose research involves the illustrations. The color versions of the illustrations—although faded over the decades—were produced as they appeared after sixty years, by scanning directly from the original pages using a Hewlett Packard 6100CSE flatbed scanner in the Columbia University Libraries Preservation Division. The 300 dpi, 24-bit color files were added to the digital archive, while lower-resolution versions were produced for on-screen purposes.