Pic of the Week: Uncovering Hidden Text in Documents

Photo by Shawn Miller.

Middle- and high-school students visited the Library’s Preservation Research and Testing Division on May 9 as part of hands-on pilot program focusing on preservation science. Here, alongside Library scientists, the students use the Library’s hyperspectral camera system to discover concealed writing in documents.

For the past decade, the Library has relied on increasingly sophisticated hyperspectral imaging technology to elicit a trove of information the human eye cannot detect from manuscripts, maps and other artifacts. Imaging involves digitally photographing an object at multiple wavelengths spanning the ultraviolet through the visible and into the near-infrared. Discrete components in an object—inks, glues, parchment—respond in unique ways to the different wavelengths. So at one wavelength, one ink may almost melt away, revealing another ink below.

The Preservation Research and Testing Division is conducting its pilot with the Library’s Educational Outreach Office. The goal is to introduce students to preservation science and its importance to protecting cultural and historical heritage within the Library’s collections. In the fall, the program will be offered on a monthly basis.

For the story behind how the Library used hyperspectral imaging to detect hidden text in a 1780 love letter from early American statesman Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, read this blog post.

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Technology at the Library: Long-Hidden Text Is Uncovered in Alexander Hamilton Letter

This is a guest post by Julie Miller, a historian in the Manuscript Division. It is published today to coincide with the anniversary of Alexander Hamilton’s birth: He was born on January 11, 1757. In the mid-19th century John Church Hamilton, a son of Alexander and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, published an edition of his father’s […]

Update on the Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress

In 2010, the Library of Congress announced an exciting and groundbreaking acquisition—a gift from Twitter of the entire archive of public tweet text beginning with the first tweets of 2006 through 2010, and continuing with all public tweet text going forward. The Library took this step for the same reason it collects other materials – […]

Trending: Who Invented Electric Christmas Lights?

Thomas Edison, inventor of the first successful practical light bulb, created the very first strand of electric lights. During Christmas 1880, strands of lights were strung outside his Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory, giving railroad passengers traveling by their first look at an electrical light display. But it would take almost 40 years for electric […]

This Day in History: Wright Brothers Take Flight

On a dark and windy morning on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, 114 years ago this Sunday, Orville Wright took flight in a tiny airplane he and his brother Wilbur had painstakingly constructed. The 605-pound craft flew all of 120 feet and remained airborne only 12 seconds. After Orville’s first success, Wilbur set the […]

Trending: An App to Answer Your Questions about the Constitution

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A New Website and More: Expanding Our Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

This is a guest post by Karen Keninger, director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). The NLS has a couple years of adventures ahead of it—adventures that sound chiefly technological but are really about meeting our patrons’ needs as reliably, easily and responsibly as possible. Technology is exciting in […]

Technology at the Library: Getting the Whole Picture

(The following is from the November/December 2016 Library of Congress Magazine, LCM, and was written by Phil Michel, digital project coordinator in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.) A new, oversize scanner is putting the Library’s collection of panoramic photographs in focus. One of the great joys in looking at a panoramic photograph is finding small […]