Work Experience at CHICC

Over the past week, CHICC have had Jim Lewis – Johnson from Hummersknott Academy in Darlington for work experience. While Jim has been with us, he’s kept a diary of what he’s been up to for us.

All images ©Jim Lewis-Johnson (except multispectral La Commedia ©The University of Manchester)

Day 1:

I was very nervous on the morning, as I was unsure of what was going to happen. I got there and Jamie came and collected me from the entrance. He introduced himself and the rest of the staff to me. He then showed me around the building, all of the general induction stuff. The first day was mainly just getting shown around to get to know the building so I do not get lost and learn about the history side of it. Later on Jamie and I photographed a selection of 1950’s sheet negatives for a CHICC external job. At the end of the day I felt relaxed and welcomed.

Day 2:

On the morning I felt happy and ready for the tasks ahead of me that day. I spent the morning with the Collection Care department. I was shown the work that they do and the equipment they use. This department works closely with the digitisation team. I also spent time with Stella Halkyard, who is the visual collections manager. We looked at the large variety of different types of historic photographs, like daguerreotypes from the visual collections. I then spent the afternoon learning to use Capture One, and edited the negatives I photographed yesterday.

Day 3:

Today I felt as this was a normal part of my every day so I was quite relaxed. Today we used multispectral lighting and a special camera. We took photos of an early printed book, ‘La Commedia’ (by Dante 1472) in a wide spectrum of lighting, from UV to infrared. I also spent time with Anne in the imaging office talking about Luna (the libraries website where all the images are uploaded). We then finished the edits on the negatives. Then at the end of the day there was an all staff meeting where they talked about the Library Strategy. At the end there was a quiz on myths about the library, which was fun. Our team didn’t win and Tony was disappointed that he didn’t get any chocolate.

La Commedia in normal light

La Commedia from 1486 in normal light

Using the Multispectral Lights

Using the Multispectral Lights

Day 4:

Today we finished the edits on the multispectral images and photographed the same pages under normal light. We took the pictures under all the different lights to try and enhance erased text on a page so it could be read. I edited one of the images, from under UV light using Capture on to enhance the text even more. I found that the writing stood out most when the background was black and the writing was white, using exposure and contrast tools.

The page from La Commedia, edited in Capture One to enhance the written text

The page from La Commedia, edited in Capture One to enhance the written text

I then went around the library taking photos for the blog, and then started to edit them. Again using Capture One I experimented with colour tools and curves to create some interesting effects on the images I took.

Day 5:

today was a very relaxed day as all our work from the week was completed so I continued to edit my photos from the previous day. I had a look at the work from throughout the week and did more experimentation with edits. And made my blog post and picked pictures I wanted to use. Then I printed some of for myself to take away.

I have spent 5 days of work experience at the John Rylands library at the university of Manchester. I have worked with several of the staff members here but mainly with Jamie. I have used a variety of expensive, professional equipment, including a Phase One iXR with an IQ180 back, and a Canon 5dMKII. I have enjoyed my time completing different tasks. Throughout the week I have seen some interesting things and some expensive items like ‘Audubon’s Birds of America’, a copy of which (not the one I saw) sold at auction for £7 million.

I have been using Capture One to edit the photos I have taken. During this time I have I have learned about learnt things like vellum, how books are made and looked after, also some photography set-ups and strategies. I have experienced a lot with the amazing help of Jamie and the rest of the staff here, they have been very kind and helpful. They might only be like that because I’m here. I felt quite nervous at the beginning of the week but now I know more and my way around the labyrinth that is The Rylands Library. And at the end I’m feeling confident. After this week I actually want to do something like this in the future.


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