Milner Library’s Digitization Center has been scanning and photographing Illinois State University’s historical treasures for over a decade. Digitization Center staff operate in close partnership with Milner’s Special Collections department, the University’s institutional repository ISU ReD, and the Dr. Jo Ann Rayfield Archives in order to select, digitize, and describe cultural heritage resources for research purposes. More than 75,000 of these images, ranging from circus snapshots to children’s artwork, are freely available for users to view and interact with online through Milner’s digital collections.

This month, the Center brought online a new, state-of-the-art planetary scanner capable of generating extremely accurate and detailed images in just a few seconds—a 10-fold time savings over the department’s previous large-format scanning system. Imported from France, the i2s Quartz A0 HD is optimized for large, flat media such as maps, posters, artwork, and blueprints, but has also shown promise with bound volumes and photo prints. This new equipment will allow for higher through-put of tricky formats and open new avenues for collaboration.

Person uses camera on a tripod and lighting apparati to photograph an old book for digitization.
The Digitization Center employs a variety of specialized equipment, including flatbed scanners and a v-cradle photography system. Here, Center Coordinator Karmine Beecroft photographs a 100-year-old ledger using a copystand camera set-up.

“We welcome opportunities to expand our digital collections in response to classroom projects or other pedagogical applications,” said Center Coordinator Karmine Beecroft. “We are always happy to meet with folks to flesh out their ideas and consider practical solutions to meet their digitization needs. It’s important to note that given our current staffing and production model; however, we generally cannot undertake mass digitization projects on the scale of many hundreds or thousands of items.”

“Digitization of historical materials is often much more cost-prohibitive and labor-intensive than many people realize,” Beecroft explained. “The equipment required to produce the archival-quality images we generate certainly represent the largest one-time outlay of funds, but the real costs come from the time and expertise that many library stakeholders contribute to projects. Our extended team includes curators, conservators, and catalogers, in addition to a hefty helping of IT support. Working together, we prioritize materials for digitization that best represent the unique collecting foci of Illinois State University, have the widest possible research applications, and are most likely to significantly deteriorate in the coming years due to their inherent vice.”

Faculty, staff, and graduate students, as well as external researchers and community members, are encouraged to submit small requests (less than 20 files total) using the Digitization Center’s web form. Fee-based services not directly related to coursework, growing Milner’s digital collections, or advancing the mission of the University are also available. In order to propose a larger project, please contact Beecroft directly at