Picturae Digitizes Thousands of Artifacts in Just Hours for the Smithsonian

16 January 2015 783

Picturae is digitizing the National Numismatic Collection housed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History along with other legal tender such as bank notes, tax stamps and war bonds. The 250,000 pieces of paper will become the Institution’s first full-production “rapid capture” digitization project. Smithsonian Magazine published the article ‘Museums Are Now Able to Digitize Thousands of Artifacts in Just Hours’ about the digitization project Picturae is performing on location in the United States at the Smithsonian Institution.


Herbarium Digistreet | Naturalis Biodiversity Center


Picturae has developed a digitization set especially for the Smithsonian based on a conveyor belt that makes the work process as efficient as possible and digitizes the objects at high speed. The efficient working method is made possible due to the combination of the conveyor belt and innovative software allowing not just rapid digitization but, more importantly, guaranteeing high quality as well. Picturae uses a custom-designed 80 megapixel imaging system, making details available to the world that had only ever been seen by a select few.


“Such equipment has never before been used in the United States,” Max Kutner of Smithsonian Magazine stated in his article. Picturae developed a similar method for digitizing herbarium sheets for Naturalis Biodiversity Center in The Netherlands. For this project more than 40,000 Herbarium sheets per day could be digitized. Kutner also explains the term “rapid capture”. He wrote that the term refers to the speed of the workflow. Before this process was in place, digitizing a single sheet could take as much as 15 minutes, at a cost of $10 per sheet. Now, the team works through 3,500 sheets a day, at less than $1 per sheet.



The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History houses the National Numismatic Collection. The quarter-million sheets, each unique, were used to print money from 1863 to 1930. They entered the Smithsonian’s collections from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing between the 1960s and 1980s, and because the original engraved plates no longer exist, these sheets are the only surviving record and essential to the country’s monetary history. “People have never seen this collection. Most numismatists have no idea what’s here,” says Jennifer Locke Jones, chair and curator of the Division of Armed Forces History.



The Smithsonian's Digitization Program Office published a YouTube video: the first run of the Picturae Digitization Conveyor system at the National Museum of American History's National Numismatic Collection department where almost 260,000 historic currency proof sheets will be digitized in the less the 4 months. Below you can find a video of the digitization conveyor system.


You can read the article ‘Museums Are Now Able to Digitize Thousands of Artifacts in Just Hours’ by Max Kutner on the website of the Smithsonian Magazine.