Jennifer Howard from the Chronicle writes about scholars and imaging scientists have managed to recover the mostly illegible contents of David Livingstone’s 1871 field diary and made them accessible online.
For more than two years, scholars and imaging scientists have been using advanced scanning techniques to recover the mostly illegible contents of an 1871 field diary kept by the British explorer David Livingstone in Africa. Low on paper and ink, the explorer had resorted to writing on newspaper sheets, with ink made from berries, and over time the original document had become almost impossible to read. The “Livingstone’s 1871 Field Diary Project” team illuminated the diary with different wavelengths of light—from blue to infrared—creating 6 or 8 different images for each page. That allowed team members to separate or fade out different features—the newspaper text, for instance—and pull out almost all of Livingstone’s handwriting. “I would say we had a 99 percent success rate,” says Adrian S. Wisnicki, the project’s director and lead scholar. Now the team has unveiled an online “multispectral critical edition” with images, transcriptions, and relevant notes, making Livingstone’s first-person account accessible again. They’ve also created a “Livingstone Spectral Images Archive” to give anyone who wants it direct access to the images, transcriptions, and metadata the project has created, no strings attached. Almost everything in both the edition and the archive comes with a Creative Commons license that allows the contents to be reused with attribution.
View the Livingstone Field Diary online.