Mass-digitization of the Sidney N. Shure Collection

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Highlighting the National Postal Museum’s mass-digitization Sidney N. Shure project.


The National Postal Museum has the second largest collection in all of the Smithsonian.

It's almost 6,000,000 objects and a majority of it consists of stamps.

If we can digitize the collection in high-resolution images and put it online

we can take the museum to you and you can start to see the collections and the stories.

The public would be interested to see the collections we have online

because it would help with their research and their educational goals but

also because some of these objects are really beautiful and they haven't been seen before.

There are millions of collectors around the world. We have right now hitting into

our website people from over 150 countries and they want to see rare objects and that's what we have here.

The Sidney N. Shure is a unique collection of Israeli and Palestinian stamps and covers.

Sidney Shure was interested in Israeli and Palestinian

relations during the post World War II era and he collected a lot of contemporary material

from that period and his stamps and covers really tell a history of what was going on in that region.

The Shure collection is a very, very large collection. It's a very, very important collection.

And the question always for us was, "How would you actually take something so big

and digitize it and show it to the world?"

And guess what? We have now succeeded in doing that with this rapid capture project.

Rapid capture is the process of digitizing objects in our collection at a mass scale.

We bring objects out of the self, digitize them, put them into all of our systems through automated processes

and they're all pushed out to our public websites in a matter of a 24 hour period.

To prepare a collection like the Sidney N. Shure collection for imaging

we take the albums out of storage, catalog them, wheel them upstairs,

remove the album pages from the binder, and set up the bar codes for each of those pages.

The camera systems we use for digitization are a significant change in the technology that's incorporated

but that means that the captured time is on the order of a fraction of a second.

For the imaging process, we have a carefully

worked-out recipe that maintains the quality that we're looking for.

We do several checks at least on a daily basis if not an individual object basis,

and that allows us to maintain the quality of those across large number of images that were doing.

So when the images are ready they get uploaded to the Smithsonian's digital

asset management system where it talks to our database and the images are

shared across those two systems and from there they go out to the Search Center.

We were able to image 3,500 album pages representing over 22,000 objects in just a week's time.

The public, when they go on the website, has an opportunity to see high-resolution images,

and also see the stories of each of the objects.

If you had to pick a collection that you want to image

and put online for the world to see, you come running to us.

Although we have a massive collection, and it's huge, you can actually move it through the technology portion of the imaging process fairly easily.

Yea, I'd like to someday see all of our 6,000,000 objects online.

By embarking on such a large digitization project, the Smithsonian is able

to not only preserve the history that we have within our walls, but we can promote it

to the public, make it available, and really look to the future about what sort of

research can continue at this wonderful institution.

The Smithsonian Institution, through its Digitization Program Office is devoting a number of resources to mass digitization projects in the museums. As you probably know, the Postal Museum jumped on the digitization wagon several years ago, most notably with our online project that gives you close-up views of thousands of items in the museum’s collections. In September the museum took part one of the Smithsonian’s Rapid Capture digitization projects. Rapid Capture not only refers to the speed in which items are digitized, but also the speed in which those image are made available to the public. The team’s motto is: “from shelf to the public in less than 24 hours.” But don’t worry, speed does not mean a sacrifice of quality or care of the objects! The team employs industrial scale quality control that ensures every item—stamp, cover, or sheet, is safely and securely photographed at its best.

The museum’s entry into the Institution’s Rapid Capture project is Sidney N. Shure’s specialized philatelic collection of Israel and Palestine. Shure, an amateur-radio hobbyist in the early 1920s, created a company that became known as Shure Brothers Inc., internationally renowned for their microphones and other audio-electronic equipment.

Shure’s massive collection is staggering in scope. It includes an incredible assemblage of sheets and partial sheets fabulous for overprint study from the Palestine Mandate and a complete collection of the first Israel issues. There is extensive Holy Land material while the area was under Turkish control and volumes of related material from geographical neighbors and covering conflicts that took place in the region. Highlights include numerous covers from both world wars with censor and seal markings and a full sheet of Palestine Mandate #1 1pi. Shure tried to obtain extensive postal markings from every town in the region. Now all you need to see these magnificent pieces is the Internet.

Our staff organized this massive undertaking and in only five days, working with Smithsonian staff and contractors, imaged 3,550 album pages, for a total of 22,286 items. I invite you to wander through this digitized collection on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center ( We are always working to bring philately and the history of the postal service to life for our visitors – in person and online. We realize that not everyone can visit the museum and welcome projects such as this as an opportunity to share our treasures with the world. Enjoy!