University of Virginia Library University of Virginia
Rare Materials Digital Services

The Holsinger Studio Digital Portfolio

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     About the Database

Digitization Services (then Special Collections Digital Center and later Rare Materials Digital Services) began construction of the online database in June 1996. The project was funded through the generosity of a number of agencies and individuals.


Images were captured directly from the original glass-plate negatives, using the Digital Center's Kontron Ultra High Resolution Digital Color Camera, model ProgRes 3012. The images were captured in full color at a resolution of 3072 X 2320 pixels (approximately 600 dpi) and saved as TIFFs. All plates were scanned in landscape orientation, regardless of the orientation of the image on the plate. These 18 MB TIFFs were then written to recordable CD; the images on CD were then batch-processed using Debabelizer 1.6.5 to create two sets of presentation JPEG images. In the first batch process, the images were inverted from negative to positive and converted from RGB color to grayscale. File resolution was reduced to 72 dpi. The images were reduced to standard pixel dimensions:


8 X 10 images: 750 pixels high (portrait) or 750 pixels wide (landscape)

5 X 7 images: 500 pixels high (portrait) or 500 pixels wide (landscape)

These images were then saved as JPEG images, using maximum quality and minimum data loss settings.

When the first batch process was complete, each image was opened in Adobe Photoshop. Images whose content were in portrait orientation were rotated ninety degrees from landscape orientation. The "Adjust Levels" tool was used to adjust brightness, darkness and contrast on each image. The images were re-saved.

The second Debabelizer batch job reduced the large JPEG images to a standard pixel dimension of 500 pixels high (portrait) or 500 pixels wide (landscape). These new thumbnail images were saved as JPEG images, using maximum quality and minimum data loss settings. Both sets of images are stored on one of the Library's IBM RS-6000 servers.

A note about viewing the images:
Image quality is optimized for viewing on a 17-inch monitor that supports the display of 24-bit color. The quality of the images varies dramatically from monitor to monitor. If, as you are viewing the database, images appear too dark, too light, heavily pixelated or grainy, please try viewing them on a different monitor before you report them as a problem.

Textual Data

The textual data is derived from Mr. Holsinger's original studio ledgers for the years 1908-1927. The information in the ledger is arranged alphabetically by surname, and sub-arranged chronologically by date. A sample page of the ledger is available here. The ledger information generally includes the date of the photograph, surname, first name or initials, size of negative, negative number, and, occasionally, price. Mr. Holsinger sometimes also recorded important descriptive information about the sitter of the photograph--such as the fact that he was a UVa baseball player, or she was the child of person named in the ledger. It is important to understand that the name recorded in the ledger is not necessarily the name of the subject of the photograph. The name recorded in the ledger is often the name of the person who purchased the photograph. Thus, a photograph of man might be entitled "Mrs. John Doe" because Mrs. Doe paid for the photograph.

When the collection came to Special Collections in the late 1970s, the information in the ledgers was transcribed and coded into a Dbase database. In addition to transcribing name, date and negative number and size, staff in Special Collections identified several topical categories of photographs:

  • African-American images
  • World War I images
  • University of Virginia images
  • Charlottesville images

Over succeeding years, the data was migrated to newer versions of Dbase, and, ultimately, into Microsoft Access. To create the online database, the Access files were transferred to FilemakerPro. Several additional fields were added and data manipulation was limited to expanding abbreviations to their full form and putting names in direct order. As a result, the construction of some of the data elements may appear slightly odd, and some may be incorrect. We plan to expand and edit data as time permits. We also plan to export the textual data into an SGML-tagged structure, mount it on one of the Library's IBM RS-6000 servers, and index the data with OpenText software.

At present, the database is served from a Macintosh to deliver the textual data from FilemakerPro.

The textual records include the following information in separate Filemaker fields:

  • Name--a brief descriptive title of the scene, or the name of the subject of a studio portrait, as taken from Holsinger's studio ledge. Unidentified portraits are indicated in this field.
  • Date--the date the photograph was taken, according to the studio ledgers; if no date is available from Holsinger's records, an approximate date is sometimes given.
  • Negative number--the number assigned by Holsinger to individual plates, or series of plates.
  • Comments--a free-text field in which special features of the content of the image are described. This field will be expanded in the future with controlled vocabulary and other information to enhance searching
  • Size--the dimensions of the glass-plate negative. Either 5x7 or 8x10

For more information about the database, contact Digitization Services.

Click here for more information about the physical collection housed in Special Collections.