By Leah Minadeo, AHF Archives & Digital Asset Manager
One of the artifacts on display at the Automotive Hall of Fame is the Ransom E. Olds “birthday book,” which was compiled by the Lansing Rotary Club and presented to 1968 AHF Inductee and Oldsmobile founder Ransom E. Olds on his 80th birthday in 1944. The book contains more than 600 letters and well-wishes from prominent figures including 1967 AHF Inductee Henry Ford, J. Edgar Hoover, and dozens of Lansing-area business owners.
To protect this item from damage by light and handling, the book remains shut and enclosed in glass on display in our museum. Thanks to the Walter P. Reuther Library, who generously loaned the use of their book scanner, we were able to digitize this valuable artifact so it can be viewed while protecting the object itself from handling. Book scanners allow us to produce high quality images of a book without placing excessive strain on the spine or on a scanner – this tome weighs about 30 pounds! The book is placed in an adjustable cradle and v-shaped plexiglass is gently pressed over top to help flatten the pages. When the glass is lowered, two cameras mounted above snap a high-resolution photo of each page. In post-processing, optical character recognition (OCR) will be added to make the digital surrogate searchable using key terms.
We look forward to providing visitors an opportunity to digitally flip through the book as AHF moves toward a more digital museum experience!