Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

#Digitization100K: Wrap-Up and Round-Up

November 29, 2020 Think THF

Throughout the month of November 2020, we’ve been celebrating reaching the milestone of 100,000 digitized artifacts by sharing out blog posts and fun facts, hosting Twitter chats with our digitization staff, and counting down the 20 most-viewed artifacts in our Digital Collections. In case you missed any of these great resources, we wanted to share them all here for easy reference.

If you follow us on social media, you might have seen the “top 20” countdown of our most-viewed digitized artifacts of all time, but if you’d like to get a broader look, you can check out the top 100 in this Expert Set. Fans of The Henry Ford will recognize many of the artifacts, but there may be some on the list that surprise you.

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The Henry Ford's all-time top 20 most-viewed digitized artifacts. Do any of them surprise you?

Here, also, are all of the fun facts about our digitization program and our Digital Collections that we shared out on social media.

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Twenty fun facts about digitization and our Digital Collections.

During the first week of November, we provided a general introduction to our Digital Collections, our digitization program, and our workflows.

  • First was our announcement that we had just digitized our 100,000th artifact, and were kicking off the month-long celebration. You can also read our press release here.
  • If you’re interested in becoming an expert in using our Digital Collections, or just not sure where to start, this blog post will give you a run-down of the ways you can search, view, and use our digitized artifacts.
  • Associate Curator, Digital Content Andy Stupperich shared how we add context to artifacts in our Digital Collections in this post.
  • Saige Jedele, also an Associate Curator, Digital Content, took us behind the scenes with The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation to discover how digitization helps shape the stories we cover on the show--and helps you to learn more afterwards.
  • Like many other people around the world, a lot of our staff have spent time this year working from home. Find out how we continued to digitize artifacts despite the closure of our campus this spring in this post.
  • As part of the William Davidson Foundation Initiative for Entrepreneurship, we've digitized nearly 2,500 artifacts from our collections. Find out more about the team and the process from Project Curator Samantha Johnson here.
  • In our first live Twitter chat on November 5, I discussed our digitization program, digitization workflows, and a bit about what you'll find in our Digital Collections.

One of the things I shared in my November 5 Twitter chat was a simplified version of our digitization process. Click through to Twitter to read this thread.

Week two took a closer look at the digitization work of our conservation and collections management teams.
  • Digitizing our artifacts means handling them. This blog post by Chief Conservator Mary Fahey explains the complicated question of when we do and don’t wear gloves—and why.
  • What is a megalethoscope? Find out in this post by IMLS Conservation Specialist Alicia Halligan, and follow it on its digitization journey, including conservation treatment, to discover what we learned along the way.
  • If you’ve ever wondered how we manage such a large collection, check out this blog post, in which Collections Operations Logistics Coordinator Victoria Morris explains how much work it takes to digitize thousands of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments.
  • To learn how we conserve and digitize extra-large objects weighing up to two tons, like a Sprague railway motor, read this blog post by Senior Conservator Louise Stewart Beck about one of our IMLS grant projects.
  • In this post, IMLS Project Conservator Marlene Gray shows you how our conservation department fits into the bigger picture of digitization on our IMLS grant projects.
  • An artifact we found during one of our IMLS grant projects was a mystery—was it a magic lamp? Or a giant's teapot? Find out—and find out how we conserved it—in this blog post by Senior Conservator Louise Stewart Beck.
  • Our November 12 Twitter chat featured IMLS Project Conservator Marlene Gray sharing how conservators get an object ready for the camera.

Intricate brass-colored teapot
Learn what we found out about this giant teapot in this blog post. / THF175572


During the third week of November, we focused on the work of our registrar’s office.

  • We catalog our artifacts to understand and utilize them. Learn more about the process of cataloging, and how it fits into our digitization efforts, in this blog post by Collections Specialist Laura Lipp.
  • Check out this post to learn how Collections Specialist, Cataloger Shannon Rossi, an Oz superfan, found inspiration in our collections with a rare theater program from the 1903 musical production of The Wizard of Oz at the Boston Theatre.
  • What's so special about a pair of silver candlesticks? We didn't know either--until provenance research by Aimee Burpee, Associate Registrar—Special Projects, revealed the answer. Learn more here.
  • Some of our photos of Greenfield Village's Susquehanna Plantation at its original site came from families who lived near the plantation, and two include a woman with a rather unique name. Learn more about her from Collections Specialist, Cataloger Shannon Rossi in this post.
  • Go behind the scenes with Patrice Fisher, Associate Registrar, Loan Manager, here to learn how our digitization efforts have made our loan process more efficient.
  • Discover how much work went into digitizing a historic seed box and more than 100 seed packets from our collections—and why it was all worth it—in this post by Curator of Agriculture and the Environment Debra A. Reid.
  • Collections Specialist Laura Lipp, Associate Registrar—Special Projects Aimee Burpee, Associate Registrar, Loan Manager Patrice Fisher, and Registrar Lisa Korzetz provided insight into the work of the registrar’s office in our November 19 Twitter chat.

Silver candlesticks with wide square bases, pillar-like columns, and intricate decorative etching
What famous American statesman owned these silver candlesticks? Find out here! / THF169539

We wrapped things up the fourth week of November with a deep dive into our artifact imaging work.

  • Our Photo Studio gets to work with fascinating artifacts every day, taking pictures of them so they can be added to our Digital Collections. Digital Imaging Specialist Jillian Ferraiuolo discusses two favorite projects here.
  • Go behind the scenes with our Photo Studio to learn about the challenges of photographing our collection of studio glass and art glass for exhibit and for our Digital Collections in this post by Digital Imaging Specialist Jillian Ferraiuolo.
  • Brian Wilson, Sr. Manager of the Archives and Library, explains here how our archives has supported our digitization efforts by producing tens of thousands of collections images through a process known as Rapid Capture.
  • In this blog post, Digital Imaging Specialist Jillian Ferraiuolo explains how the Photo Studio at The Henry Ford applies a little resourcefulness and ingenuity to photograph our extensive collection of quilts in order to share them online.
  • In our collections are one million Ford parts drawings on microfilm. Learn more about this collection and how we digitize it from Image Services Specialist Jim Orr in this post.
  • When our photography team has to shoot large artifacts that are hard to move, they go on location! Learn more about the challenges and opportunities of this work from Jillian Ferraiuolo, Digital Imaging Specialist, here.
  • In this blog post from Associate Curator, Digital Content Saige Jedele, find out how a digitization request led to a new understanding of and new documentation for a set of picture blocks in our collections.
  • On November 24, Sr. Manager of the Archives and Library Brian Wilson, Digital Imaging Specialist Jillian Ferraiuolo, and Image Services Specialist Jim Orr discussed how we create images of both two-dimensional and three-dimensional artifacts in a live Twitter chat.

Camera on tripod in foreground pointed toward a large metal truss in front of white background, with large, low brick buildings extending into the distance on both sides
Go on location with our photography team to capture images of oversized artifacts here!

Thank you to all our fans, members, and donors for making this work possible—and most of all, thank you to our amazing and professional staff, from seven teams across three departments, who make it happen! We greatly appreciate your interest and support in all our celebrations this month, and we look forward to continuing to digitize new artifacts until we hit the next major milestone.

The Henry Ford is facing unprecedented financial challenges due to the impact of our 16-week closure and reduced operations. We need your help in securing our future. Love the Henry Ford? Please support all that we treasure—including our digitization program. Longtime supporters of The Henry Ford will match your donation dollar for dollar, so your contribution will have double the impact.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

2020s, 21st century, research, photography, digitization, digital collections, conservation, collections care, by Ellice Engdahl, #digitization100K, #Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford

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