Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has made significant changes in the storage of the institution's cellulose nitrate collection and made great progress towards solving the problem of inaccessibility concerning nitrate panoramic film.LAC's vast collection of nitrate material includes 600,000 photographic negatives of which approximately 4,000 panoramas have remained inaccessible to both the public and archivists. The panoramas had previously been stored in their original housings, often multiple negatives per metal canister, at an offsite storage facility that was not considered conducive for the long-term preservation of nitrate material.As part of the preparations to move the nitrate collection to LAC's new state-of-the-art Nitrate Film Preservation Facility (NFPF) staff described, assessed, measured, and rehoused each panoramic negative by separating the panoramas, individually rolling, then wrapping them in bond paper and placing them in boxes in an upright position. In February 2011, the entire nitrate collection was relocated to this new facility, which includes a collection processing room and a digitization room.Building on the initial research undertaken by Greg Hill and Tania Passafiume (presented at the IS&T conference in 2006), this paper will outline how staff established a successful workflow to digitize a selection of 1,500 panoramas from the Merrilees collection. This collection is in high demand but the panoramas have been restricted in access due to the fragility of the material. The selected panoramas are mainly images of Canadian Expeditionary Force battalions from the First World War, with the negatives measuring up to 2.6 metres (9 feet) in length. After digitization the images will be uploaded to the LAC website. In light of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War it is anticipated that the public, through web-based crowdsourcing, will help in the identification of many of the soldiers in the panoramas.This discussion will highlight several challenges such as the limited options of equipment and setup available when digitizing nitrate panoramic film, and dealing with a medium affected by deterioration. A complete review will also be presented of the new process developed to obtain a high resolution preservation scan thereby allowing public access to the panoramas while simultaneously preserving the original material in a secure and controlled environment.
Carla Klück, "Zooming In on the Big Picture: Digitization of Nitrate Panoramic Film" in Proc. IS&T Archiving 2012, 2012, pp 232 - 237, https://doi.org/10.2352/issn.2168-3204.2012.9.1.art00052