High tech scanner enhances RMC Historic Documents Library
Bob’s Little dog, Cricket, got out of the yard and decided to take a “walk about.” Cricket was discovered by County Councilman Joe Qualey’s wife at the James Island shelter. She called her husband and asked him to walk down to where Bob and Yana lived and tell them Cricket was safe.
While celebrating Cricket’s recovery, Joe mentioned that he served on Charleston County Council. Bob said he was a county employee at the RMC Office. That conversation set up the “Let me know if I can do anything to help” offer.
Since he offered, Bob McIntyre said, “Our office needs a new scanner for our historic plats and documents.”
Councilman Qualey said, “Put it in your budget, and I’ll see what I can do to help.”
As they say, the rest is history.
Our new high tech scanner made it through the county’s budgetary process and was delivered last week.
There’s only one scanner like this on the East Coast and it resides at the University of Miami in Florida. Four older models are in the History and Archives Department in Washington, D.C.
The machine has a linear camera that scans documents from 100dpi to 1,000dpi. But more important is its book cradle, which allows a technician to scan historic documents that are hard-bound and stored in our library.
The cradle lifts one side of the book at a time up to a glass shelf, flattens the page, then takes the picture.
The RMC Historic Document Library starts in 1719 and ends in 1900. These documents are priceless — some even signed by the king of England. They cannot be replaced, but they can be scanned, the images cropped and then put on the Internet.
As keeper of these historic documents, we’ve always been sensitive to their normal wear and tear, but now we can scan them, wrap them in non-acidic paper and put them back on their shelf in a temperature controlled room.
We then put their images on the Internet and know with confidence that these 300-year-old documents will no longer need to be held by human hands.
Another great feature of this scanner is its vacuum table, which allows a technician to carefully lay a document on the machine and, with the proper vacuum coming from below, flatten it out so it can be scanned without damaging the priceless document.
That is particularly useful for what is known as the McCrady Plat Collection. The McCradys, as they’re called, are some of the oldest and most respected plats in our country. Like the hard-bound historic documents, the McCradys live in a specially designed and temperature- controlled environment. But they must be taken out of their cases in order to be reproduced.
These were working documents. In their day many of them rode around South Carolina in the surveyor’s pouches on horseback.
They are beautiful documents, some with property lines in color ink, building sketches, significant trees and other things of interest.
Now they’re old, some crumbled and others actually taped together. But when a lawyer needs a land grant search, this is where he goes.
Our goal is to complete the scanning of the historic documents, the McCrady Plats and any other large or historic documents as needed. Once our work is done, I’m sure the College of Charleston and its digital library, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Preservation Society and others needing this technology will come calling.
We’re very fortunate to have such a machine. The addition of this new scanner will allow the Charleston County RMC Office to remain the most technologically advanced records office in South Carolina and perhaps now, the most advanced on the East Coast.
Thanks, Joe, Bob and little Cricket. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Register of Mesne Conveyance