As Maggie, Fazila, and I work to digitize collections for our final project, an online exhibit featuring Evanston neighborhood women’s involvement in the women’s suffrage movement, I consider how I can use tools like Photoshop to enhance the quality of images we digitize. Having used photo-editing services such as Gimp, Picasa, and Paint to crop and sharpen photos for a brief documentary video before, I have learned that editing can go a long way to improving the visibility of a photographed or scanned document or image, but can take a lot of time and effort. Often, the digitized format for sources needs some enhancement before its online presentation: scans are often washed out and need sharpening, while photographs of collections often need straightening, cropping, and sharpening to correct glare and other issues. I am curious to see what features Photoshop has to offer when we experiment with it in class next week. Here are some raw images I hope to enhance as a result:

I will work to straighten these images and make them look flat, rotate them so they are upright, crop out the table space around them, sharpen blurred parts, and reduce the glare and shadows covering some of the images.

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The risk to enhancing these photographs, however, is that of over-editing. I want to hold true to the integrity of the original picture, especially if someone is referring to the picture as historical evidence. I have an obligation to present the material in a format as true to the appearance of the original source as possible, so I need to be careful that I don’t modify the images to a degree that they lose their historical integrity, and thus their value. The challenge will be to keep them true-to-form, but also visually appealing for exhibit display.

Check in soon to see some edited versions of these photos, and be on the lookout for our final project!

All images photographed by Maggie McClain, courtesy of the Evanston History Center Archival and Photograph Collections. Featured image edited by Kelly Schmidt.

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One thought on “Visualizing Women’s Suffrage

  1. With all of the possibilities of photo editing, people do tend to get carried away sometimes! I agree that keeping the integrity of historical photographs is an important thing to keep in mind, especially for public historians. Although you want the image to be clear, people have strong reactions to old photographs because of their age and real connection with the past. I once created a display using original photographs where I would usually have used copies, and the originals, with all of their imperfections, really changed the whole feeling of the presentation. That’s something we want to hang onto in our digital projects.

    I hope that some practice with Photoshop will help me get a feel for the right amount of enhancement and the best way to present historical evidence digitally.

    Liked by 1 person

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