Unlock Your History

Archiving Services from Act 3 partners

What We Do

This is what a gold mine looks like

Your archive is a rich vein of brand-building history.

Think of all the things that shaped the enterprise you have today: the colorful personalities who built it. The big ideas that informed it. The successes you celebrated and the mistakes you learned from.

It's the texture that enriches your brand story and helps your team, and your audience, understand what you're all about.

And it's all right there in those boxes - if you could just find a way to access it! That's where we can help.

Digital Capture... turbocharged!

We've figured out a way to bend the rules, and get both quality and quantity in record time!

Now we can quickly and economically bring your messy boxed-up history into the digital domain - where you can find it, and use it, and keep it safe from the ravages of time.

With our system thousands of images, documents, and artifacts can be safely captured and annotated in days, not weeks - in a form compatible with virtually any digital asset management system.

The Secret: A proprietary mix of modern cameras, modern image software, and old-fashioned attention to detail!

Catalogs: the gateway to your collection

Our high-volume capture process will produce a huge collection of image files in no time! That's why flexible cataloging is so important. It's the key to efficient archive management.

As we capture each image, we tag it with agreed-upon metadata, which will make it easy to organize your archive in meaningful ways. This metadata becomes the basis of a wide variety of cataloging options.

We can output a PDF index suitable for printing or online viewing. Or a .csv formatted spreadsheet which can interface with most content management systems.

For a more finished look, we can even output your catalog as a hard-bound book with full color imagery.

Cover photo by Cory Weaver

Cover photo by Cory Weaver

Cover photo by Cory Weaver

Case Studies

Case Studies

Case Study: Wells Fargo

We're always scrupulously careful with the items we digitize in our studio. But for clients with very-high-value artifacts or sensitive documents we offer an "on-location" digitizing service.

Our recent trip into the Wells Fargo archive in San Francisco was a prime example. It's a couple levels down in an old bank vault.

We were capturing their corporate minutes from the late 1800s - a priceless historical stash of handwritten journals filled with the names of the movers and shakers who built San Francisco.

The thick and delicate journals would never work in a flatbed scanner. Our raw rapid capture was the perfect solution: high resolution and high throughput!

As we worked we kept a close eye on the vault door. If it were to swing shut, we'd be entombed two stories below ground. On the plus side, if nuclear war were to break out we could close the door and keep working!

The Result: 4700 pages of historic journals captured in 3 days. Each journal converted into a separate PDF document. A significant piece of corporate history now safe in the digital domain, without ever leaving the safe!

Case Study: Marin County Free Library

The Marin County Free Library was the lucky recepient of a huge collection of nearly 30,000 unrecorded surveys and maps dating back to the gold rush.

The collection is profoundly significant as a historical record of the development of the San Francisco Bay area. But making these maps accessible to the public was a real challenge. Many were extremely delicate and some were very large.

For this job we set up a capture station in the library's California Room Annex where the maps are archived. Aided by library staff and volunteers we were able to digitize over 500 maps per day.

Since many maps had very fine detail including faint notations in pencil, we utilized a 50 megapixel camera for capture.

With some maps as large as a dinner table, even 50 megapixels was not enough to render the level of detail we wanted. To capture those maps we used a precision stitching technique we've developed over the years that combines multiple shots in a single image with incredible resolution.

The Result: Over 2700 high-resolution indexes and maps are now online and in use by surveyors, developers and researchers everyday. Read more HERE and see us in action in this Marin Independent Journal article.

Part of Korbel's archive of corporate papers

Case Study: Korbel Champagne

The history of the Korbel family is the story of the development of Northern California. Three brothers immigrated from Bohemia in the middle of the 1800's, and headed out into the virgin redwood forests of California to seek their fortune.

Their archive documents their progression from lumber sellers to the establishment of one of the first California wineries. Scores of bound journals record the minutest details of the evolution of their business over 130 years. Everything from pay stubs and inventory tallies, to bottle labels, family photos and corporate minutes.

Realizing that the ravages of time were starting to take a toll on this unique resource they asked us to digitize it all and annotate it with searchable metadata. This involved the careful capture of each page of scores of thick bound journals and the capture and restoration of moldy glass plate negatives.

The Result: Over 6900 high-resolution master images preserving the archive. PDF thumbnail galleries with extensive metadata give the staff a visual reference tool for accessing the collection.

Part of Korbel's archive of corporate papers

Case Study: UC Davis Slater Collection

We love to help our clients bring their archives to life, and this project for UC Davis is a prime example. Their Special Collections team at the Shields Library received a treasure trove of documents and artifacts from the life of one of their legendary alumni: Colby "Babe" Slater.

Babe was a great athlete and after graduation ended up on the 1924 U.S. Olympic Rugby team as their captain.

That year they beat the heavily favored French team for the Gold Medal. French fans were so disappointed they rioted, and from then on rugby would not be played at the Olympics.

In 2016 the sport was reinstated, and U.C. Davis wanted to celebrate the fact that their sports hero led the team that had been the reigning Gold Medal champions for the last 92 years!

The collection, with its medals and other memorabilia was considered too valuable to leave the university so we set up our high-efficiency, high- resolution capture station in a library conference room.

The Result: Over 2000 high-resolution images - all cross-referenced to the university's content accession system - and delivered on time to meet a tight website deadline. (See our photos on the Slater Collection website and read our article in the Visual Resources Association Bulletin)

Denim Jacket circa 1944

Case Study: Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi's is an iconic brand that's been around for 130 years - with stories dating back to the gold-rush, and clothing that many consider to be the quintessential American fashion.

While many archives are mostly photos and documents, the massive Levi's archive contains physical samples of every garment they've ever made and fascinating relics that customers and celebrities have contributed. Truly a large-scale photographic challenge.

Because the collection is so large and so valuable, each year we bring a complete capture set-up to their facility and perform all our work on-site. This has the added advantage of allowing us to consult with their in-house archivists as we capture.

The Result: After four annual visits we've added 20,000 images to their digital asset management system. And created a rich source of inspiration for their vintage clothing designers.

Read the full story HERE.

Denim Jacket circa 1944

Case Study: Hearst Corporation

When your heritage includes a massive castle full of priceless artworks, you tend to take archiving very seriously. That's why we were so pleased to be tapped to help the Hearst Corporation's archivist with an interesting bit of scrapbooking around the actual design of the castle itself.

It seems that William Randolph Hearst was something of an architecture buff and carried on a lively dialog with Julia Morgan, the architect for the castle he was building at San Simeon. He was constantly scanning magazines and books for ideas and sending clippings with handwritten notes to her.

Someone (perhaps Ms. Morgan) gathered the notes into a scrapbook that had lain undiscovered amongst old boxes in the basement of the Hearst Building in San Francisco.

We captured the odd-sized pages at high resolution and processed the images to bring out Hearst's often faint pencil notations. We also ran an optical character recognition pass to make the final document searchable.

The Result: A high-resolution PDF booklet that intimately illustrates the creative collaboration between a larger-than-life client and his famous architect as they designed the castle that now rates as the most popular of all California's State Parks!

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Case Study: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

The archive at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is the most extensive collection of documents and maps that chronicle the development of the water system for Northern California. The system is a public works infrastructure on the same scale as the railroads and highways, with a profound influence on the history of California.

Big projects seem to beget big maps. That was clearly the case when the PUC recently discovered a treasure trove of documents and maps from the 1860's to the early 1900's that were presumed lost in the 1906 earthquake.

These are truly one-of-a-kind historical assets, and some of them are as large as 18 feet long! Our 50 megapixel "Raw Rapid Capture" process is great for maps up to 4 x 6 feet - but how do you handle an 18 foot map especially in the PUC annex where there isn't 18 feet of unobstructed space?

Necessity being the mother of invention, we rigged a novel pipe and drape system that allowed us to shoot accurately aligned images of successive sections of the maps and then stitch them together in a final composite image. It sounds complicated but once we were set up the maps were captured in mere minutes!

The Result: These amazing relics of California history have come out of complete obscurity and can now be seen in sharp detail by a wider audience.

Read the full story published in the Society of California Archivists Newsletter HERE.

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Case Study: Sonoma County Library - Luther Burbank Collection

The city of Santa Rosa, in Sonoma county California was home to Luther Burbank, one of the most famous American horticulturists. Burbank is credited with developing over 800 commercially significant varieties of fruits and vegetables in the early twentieth century. His home, test gardens, and archives are now maintained as an historic site by Santa Rosa's Luther Burbank Home & Gardens Association. Until now access to the archive was restricted to "white glove only" handling by a limited number of academics.

To promote much wider access the city tasked the Sonoma County Library with adding a digital version of the Burbank archive to its Sonoma Heritage website, and the Library asked us to help with the project. The collection included photographs, daguerreotypes, slides, panoramic and stereographic images as well as postcards, greeting cards, botanical drawings and negatives dating from the 1860s to the 1980s.

Packing and transporting such a delicate and eclectic collection of this size was not practical, so we set up our "raw" rapid capture system at the Library, and worked side by side with the collection archivist and Library staff. Over the course of several days we captured more than 2000 images. After the high-resolution "raw" files were processed (cropped, enhanced, and color corrected) and metadata checked, the digital images were uploaded to the Sonoma County Library's "Sonoma Heritage Collection" public portal.

The Result: A locally and nationally significant collection of over 2000 images of Santa Rosa history and the work of Luther Burbank is now available online to the public. See collection overview HERE and read more HERE.

Samson and Delila 1933 restored from damaged negative

Case Study: San Francisco Opera

With a history going back almost one hundred years, the San Francisco Opera has become one of the key cultural cornerstones of San Francisco, and one of the most respected opera companies in the world.

In anticipation of their nearing centennial they are opening a new wing with state-of-the-art performance spaces and modernized administration offices. They asked us to help them bring their glorious history to life with galleries of images displayed throughout the new public spaces.

Working with their archive staff we sorted through reams of old negatives and prints, many of which needed cleaning and retouching. After capturing them at high resolution we worked with our printing partners to produce stunning museum-grade prints.

The Result: In opera they say: "It's not over till the fat lady sings!" Now the San Francisco Opera has over 300 running feet of galleries that really sing!

Full story HERE.

Samson and Delila 1933 restored from damaged negative

Case Study: UC Davis Amerine Wine Label Collection

The University of California at Davis is considered the premier enology and viticulture learning center in the United States. That reputation is owed in large part to one of the school's beloved professors: Dr Maynard Amerine. His work over the last half of the twentieth century was instrumental to the development of the California wine industry.

Along with his countless academic publications, he spent over 50 years compiling a very personal diary of all the wines he had tasted around the world. But more than just notes, he steamed off the labels from the bottles and pasted them into his diary, adding comments about the wine, and the company he drank it with! With over 5000 labels, it's a fascinating survey not only of wine history but trends in label graphics as well.

The University wanted to preserve this huge collection in digital format and our challenge was to streamline the photography so that eight banker's boxes of labels could be captured within a tight academic budget. We engineered a pin-registration system that ensured consistent image placement during the fast-paced photography.

The Result: Over 5000 high-resolution images for the library and another set of JPEGs for a website the university is building to crowd-source metadata for the labels. Read about the process in our Visual Resources Association article "Shoot First and Ask Questions Later! A Social Media Strategy for Building a Wine Label Database"

SS Lurline on maiden voyage, greeted on arrival in Honolulu 1948

Case Study: Matson Navigation

Talk about a rich vein for storytelling! This private corporate archive has it all: the lure of the wide-open sea, exciting ports-of-call, World War II action, celebrities, and the golden age of luxury travel. Not to mention revolutionizing commerce with the development of containerized shipping. Spend ten minutes browsing this archive and you gain a whole new appreciation for this historic brand!

An archive as old and varied as Matson's often incorporates many media formats. Their history spans much of the history of photography so we needed to accommodate virtually every type of negative and print in our work.

The Result: Over a thousand high-resolution images organized into categorized galleries, with extensive searchable metadata.

SS Lurline on maiden voyage, greeted on arrival in Honolulu 1948

How We Do It

Act 3 partners: Our Process

All too often the biggest roadblock to capturing an archive is the fear that the job is just too overwhelming to even begin.

But actually, capturing the images is a great way to get started on the path to organizing and using your history. Once everything is in a consistent digital format it's much easier to scan through the collection and organize the items into meaningful categories. That's why we advocate the simple four step process outlined here:

1

Pre-Flight

We design a workflow and process that will achieve your content and budget objectives. Then we work with you to establish keywords and other metadata that will be useful in organizing your content.

2

Capture

We capture everything in high-resolution RAW format, up to 50 megapixels per image. These "digital negatives" offer exquisite detail and guarantee the widest range of output uses.

3

Add Metadata

We can add a wide array of keywords and other data to each image to facillitate sorting and searching. The digital negative format allows this metadata to be embedded back into the image file for added security.

4

Export

The resulting image catalog can be exported in a wide variety of formats, including automatic porting to most digital asset management systems. Images can yield stunning prints as well as compressed images for the web.

Capabilities

The new photo gallery at the Diane Wilsey Center for Opera - San Francisco

Act 3 Partners: Capabilities

High-Speed High-Resolution Digital Capture

On-site Capture Capability for High-Value or Fragile Material

Cataloging, Metadata Entry, and Curation

Photo Retouching and Restoration

Multi-format Publishing

Museum-grade Printing Preparation

Exhibit Design & Production

Who We Are

Act 3 Partners: About Us

Ironically, we perfected our archiving processes while capturing our own extensive media libraries. Principals Jack Schaeffer and Jeff Hurn have been producing award-winning visual communications for decades, and have generated terabytes of portfolio files in the process.

Our long experience in the art and science of photography informs the way we approach every archive project. And after years of producing engaging entertainment we're especially attuned to the story-telling opportunities hidden in every archive.

If you'd like more information about our company or would like to discuss an archiving project please contact us!

310-612-1950

On location in the library at the University of California, Davis.

Act 3 News

Act 3 News

September 29, 2018
Preserving Marin County history, one map at a time

Act 3 featured in the Marin Independent Journal

Hunched over his keyboard with a look of intense concentration, Jack Schaeffer yells out to the team behind him without looking over his shoulder.

"Ready?" he says.

"Hold on," says Jeff Hurn, fiddling with the alignment of a century-old map as he straightens its edges. He hardly blinks.

Swinging his knees, Schaeffer swivels his chair in a slight arc as he waits. He's been doing this all morning, and he's primed for efficiency.

"Go," Hurn says a moment later.

The room erupts in flash as Schaeffer clicks his computer mouse, set up to trigger a camera above them.

Read the rest of the article at the Marin Independent Journal and check out the video of us in action HERE.

May 30, 2018
Archivists captured in Bank Job!

4700 pages of historic journals captured in 3 days!

For clients with very-high-value artifacts or sensitive documents we offer an "on-location" digitizing service, but rarely do we have to crack a safe to get there. For a recent job for Wells Fargo we'd be two levels below ground behind a steel door three feet thick. We wish we could say we gained access to the vault using industrial drills and some thermite explosive but actually we were just invited in by the San Francisco archiving staff.

We were capturing their corporate minutes from the late 1800s - a priceless historical stash of handwritten journals filled with the names of the movers and shakers who built San Francisco. The thick and delicate journals would never work in a flatbed scanner. Our Raw Rapid Capture system was the perfect solution: high resolution, high throughput, and delicate handling.

As we worked we kept a close eye on the vault door. If it were to swing shut, we'd be entombed two stories below ground. On the plus side, if nuclear war were to break out we could close the door and keep working!

The Result: 4700 pages of historic journals captured in 3 days. Each journal converted into a separate PDF document. A significant piece of corporate history now safe in the digital domain, without ever leaving the safe!

April 21, 2017
We digitized Silicon Valley 100 years before Google Maps!

We digitized Silicon Valley 100 years before Google Maps!

By that we mean we digitized a big collection of maps of the Santa Clara Valley that are over 100 years old! The project was commissioned by the Archive and Special Collections staff at Santa Clara University and involved maps of the area dating back to the 1700's.

These maps are very popular and patrons of the archive frequently ask to see them. But their age and fragility make repeated handling a risky proposition. So the university engaged us to digitize them at high resolution so researchers could study them online in great detail.

Large fragile items like these maps cannot safely be loaded into a motorized document scanner. And they won't fit into a flat bed scanner. They need to be captured photographically - which is our specialty. We call it "Rapid Raw Capture" because it's not only fast but yields a very accurate, wide-latitude image. These RAW format images can be processed for a wide variety of uses, from online viewing to gorgeous large format prints.

Our standard capture results in a 24 megapixel image which is more than enough most applications but some of the maps were quite large so we felt they would benefit from even greater resolution. To accomplish this we employ a proprietary multi-pass capture that intelligently stitches many shots into single final image. The result is a file that can produce poster-sized prints with incredible detail!

"I'd like express again my sentiments regarding how beautifully the maps turned out. Your passion is reflected in your work and I'm excited we were able to obtain digital images of our maps." - Nadia Nasr, Head of Archives and Special Collections, Santa Clara University

September 22, 2016
SF Chronicle reviews "Looking Through the Lens"

Photo: Cory Weaver

"Looking Through the Lens"

The SF Chronicle today reviewed "Looking Through the Lens", San Francisco Opera's new photography exhibit at the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera.

ACT 3 captured the images from negatives, prints and books from the Opera's archives, retouched and processed them for printing. We produced scale layouts of the exhibit to facilitate curating of the images by the opera staff, and then supervised the printing, framing and installation.

"To walk though the galleries, whether as an aficionado or a tyro, is to revel in the vitality and variety of the operatic experience," says the Chronicle.

Read the full review HERE and visit the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, located on the 4th floor of 401 Van Ness Ave, to tour the free public gallery.

March 3, 2016
San Francisco Opera's Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera

Jon Finck, San Francisco Opera Director of Communications + Public Affairs (on left) overseeing the installation of the David Gockley Gallery with Jack Schaeffer of ACT 3.

Exhibition Galleries

The Wilsey Center will have two public exhibition galleries showcasing illustrious artists and notable productions from the San Francisco Opera Archive collection. The David Gockley Gallery (South Corridor) will be distinguished by an exhibition of 58 exclusively black and white images from the Company's first season in 1923 through the 1970s including rare and recently discovered images presented for the first time. In the Hume Family Gallery (North Corridor), 94 color images will be on display reflecting the Company's more recent productions ranging from the 1980s to the present. Both galleries will be augmented by a display of ornate costumes.

The Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera is located on the fourth floor of the Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.

For more information on the Wilsey Center, see the San Francisco Opera press release and check out photos from the Opening celebration.

The ACT 3 team captured the images from negatives, prints and books from the Opera's archives, retouched and processed them for printing. We produced scale layouts of the exhibit to facilitate curating of the images by the opera staff, and then supervised the printing, framing and installation.

We selected the printing artisans at Visual Presentation and the Framing craftsmen at Michael Thompson Framing to print, frame and install the 2 public galleries at the Wilsey Center. The B & W gallery is now complete, with the color to follow in the near future.

See our case study.