Digitization brings document back to life

Inchelin letter before

Mother Mathilde Inchelin letter to U.S. Sisters, March 15, 1924 – before

So what do you do when you find, as we recently did, two fragments from a document inserted into the pages of one your library books? In this case, the document was a letter sent by Mother Mathilde Inchelin, Superioress General of the Daughters of Charity from 1922 to 1928, to the Sisters in the United States, announcing her intention to visit the U.S. Above is the “before” – the two fragments as we found them. The page seen here is the first of 3 pages. Fortunately for us, the pieces fit well together. No text would be lost if we could bring the pieces together. However, because the paper had been folded many times as well as being torn in two, traditional paper repair was not possible. Careful scanning and Photoshop Elements allowed us to do what traditional paper repair could not – put the pieces of the letter back together so that the entire text could once again be read. The original pieces were scanned at 600 dpi and saved as uncompressed TIFF files. These are the archival masters. Once the two separate pieces were in place, a new file was created and Photoshop’s layering function was used to edit each piece independently, including moving the pieces into position so that the edges lined up. The “levels” controls were used to color balance the final image so that there was a good visual match with the original paper items. The digitally restored pages were also saved as TIFF files. Derivatives such as the files seen in this post are in JPEG format. The files seen here are 150 dpi JPEG.

Here is the “after” – the top and the bottom halves of page 1 digitally stitched together.

Inchelin letter - after

Mother Mathilde Inchelin letter to U.S. Sisters, March 15, 1924, p.1 – after

Restored page 2:

Inchelin letter - p.2

Mother Mathilde Inchelin letter to US Sisters, March 15, 1924, page 2 – after

Restored page 3:

Inchelin letter p.3

Mother Mathilde Inchelin letter to U.S. Sisters, March 15, 1924, page 3 – after

Did we save the originals? Yes, we did.

And what about Mother Inchelin and the trip to the US? After we restored the letter we did some research into the trip itself and sadly, the planned trip was not made. Political circumstances in France, combined with bad health, forced her to cancel her journey and she never made it to the U.S. Mother Inchelin died in 1928. Mother Inchelin’s successor, Mother Marie Lebrun, was the first Superioress General to make the trip from France to the United States, in 1929.

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Filed under Digitized Collections, Preservation

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