WSU Libraries

Virtual Motor City

A Subset of the Detroit News Photo Archive


The digitized images in the project represent a small subset of the Detroit News Collection, one of the premier photojournalistic resources freely available from a national-level newspaper and held at the Reuther Library. In 1997, the Detroit News' outgoing editor and publisher Robert Giles conveyed the paper's original negatives and, significantly, copyright to the Reuther Library. In 2002, the Library System and Reuther collaborated to carry out the digitization of a selection number of photograph's from the Detroit News Collection. The full collection consists of more than 800,000 specially selected glass and nitrate, acetate and polyester film-based negatives. These date from the late 19th century, but the bulk fall between 1900 and 1980. They range in size from 8" x 10" to 35mm in both black and white, and color.

The project was funded in multiple stages by the Insitute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The first stage demonstrated the Reuther and Library System's ability to execute the project, while the second stage provided funding for digitizing a large portion of images from the collection. In addition, to the Virtual Motor City project aover 400 Detroit News Newsreels from the 1920's were digitized.

Project Goals


To demonstrate how access to and preservation for the Detroit News photo collection can be improved by digitizing, cataloging and providing Web access to approximately 400-500 selected negatives.


  1. Capture the images in digital form and set a baseline for future preservation treatment.
  2. Test the digitization lab in the Reuther Library.
  3. Test the process of building SGML files from the existing FileMakerPro database, and to begin using DLXS and MrSID Geo software to provide access to the digital collection.
  4. Enable cataloging staff to obtain experience working with metadata for images.
  5. Enable Reuther Library staff to obtain more experience digitizing images.
  6. Obtain useful data and experience, and develop a demonstration site that will strengthen future grant proposals to fund the rest of the Project.

Project Timeline

I. Project Design - May 2002 to June 2002

  • Define goals and objectives for the demonstration project.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities related to the demonstration project, which will result in the development of a service-level agreement between WSULS and the Reuther Library.
  • Assess restrictions and/or copyright issues related to collection.
  • Prepare budget and timeline for project based on the grant received.
  • Assign staff and/or select outsourcing for tasks associated with project, as necessary.
  • Select a subset of the collection to include in the demonstration project (based on project goals, readiness, physical condition of items, etc.).
  • Select and document standards, guidelines, and best practices that will be used during the project, including technology and equipment that will be used; types of file formats for capture, archiving, and presentation; custodial storage assessments and decisions; metadata elements, encoding and input; vocabulary to be used, etc.
  • Prepare digitization instruction sheets and provide staff training.

II. Project Implementation – July 2002 to August 2002

  • Begin to digitize selected portion of collection and develop metadata:
    • Prepare subset of collection for digitization.
    • Determine scheme for file name assignment.
    • Develop workflow plan for digitization and transmittal of files to WSULS.
    • Begin and complete digitization of selected subset of collection.
    • Begin research to enter and/or enrich existing metadata in FilemakerPro database.
  • Begin work on Web site design and content (e.g. help pages, introductory text, etc.) with input from all project-associated parties and create an alpha test site for the project
  • Select and/or begin developing database conversion programs, indexes, and search interface.
  • Begin cataloging and indexing the images using appropriate metadata and indexing standards.
  • Identify/implement best method of integration with existing Horizon database(s).
  • Hold regular meetings with project-associated parties to assess completion of tasks and prepare progress reports for DALNET (June 30, and September 30, 2002).
  • Begin public relations activities and promote the collection's pending production date.
  • Create beta version of Web site and test.
  • Obtain approval from all project-associated parties to move Web site to production.
  • Put Web site into production as an ongoing "pilot project" in September 2002, establishing links from WSULS's Web site.

III. Post-Implementation - September 2002 to January 2003

  • Continue public relations activities.
  • Continue digitization, metadata development, cataloging, indexing, and refining Web site until selected subset of collection is finished and Web site moves into production from its "pilot project" state, by or before December 2002.
  • Evaluate project using questionnaires, surveys, and group meetings.
  • Begin to collect monthly statistics on Web site's/database's usage for ongoing evaluation.
  • Explore continued funding options, and review options for continuing to add content to the digital collection.
  • Write final report for DALNET by January 31, 2003.

Scanning the Detroit News: A Quick Reference Guide

Are your hands clean? Are you wearing gloves?


  • Place the negative on the scanner bed with emulsion side up
  • Open Photoshop and import scanner
  • Check your settings- they should be at Transparency, Grey 256, 600 dpi, 8x10 inches. If the integrity of the image will be compromised by cropping, please capture as much as you can by leaving the longest side at 10 inches and adjust the shorter side accordingly.
  • Click on Preview, then arrange the key around the image. Once arranged, click Scan.
  • Adjust any problems you find with the image by Rotating, adjusting Curves, or using the Auto Adjust tool.


  • Save your preservation file as a TIFF, naming according to the record ID number given by the Detroit News Database then save to your TIFF folder on your desktop.
  • Make your JPEG copy only after you have saved the original as a TIFF by decreasing the size to 3.5 inches width, resolution to 72, then Save As a JPEG through your File Menu. Deposit into your JPEG folder or directly into file. Copying into the database is done by Select All and then Copy.

Database modification

  • Open the News database to the appropriate file- check the entry against the information on the envelope, and the information within. Modify the data where necessary. Modification will include:
    • Checking the date
    • Adding the image (by copying the JPEG file and pasting into image field)
    • Checking for any additional data on the edges of the negative, or the folder front
    • Checking format type and size
    • Adding the electronic file name to the appropriate field
    • Checking for a photographer name
  • If there is more than one image being scanned from an envelope, enter the data from the other images on the Additional Images layout.
  • If there is damage to the negative, and the image is part of a group, note this damage in the Archival Notes field. If the image is singular, go to the Check layout, and note the damage in the appropriate fields.


Jeff Trzeciak, WSULS Library Computing & Media Services Director
Mike Smith, Director, Reuther Library
Nardina Mein, Ph.D. WSULS New Media & Information Technology, Director

Elizabeth Clemens, Reuther Library Audiovisual Archivist and Imaging Lead
Matt Decker, Associate Director, WSULS New Media & Information Technology
Tom Featherstone, Audiovisual Reference Manager
Ubaidul Khan, WSULS Digital Library Services UNIX Administrator
Fran Krempasky, WSULS, RAMS Head of Cataloging (Metadata Issues)
Adriene Lim, WSULS Digital Library Services Manager and Project Leader
Shawn McCann, WSULS Digital Library Services Web Assistant
Yasin Sama, WSULS Digital Library Services, Systems Technician
Barbara Heath, Metadata Technician

Virtual Motor City

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WSU Libraries
3100 David Adamany Undergraduate Library
5155 Gullen Mall
Detroit, MI USA 48202
(313) 577-4023 / 5525 - fax