Digital Imaging main content.

Digital Imaging

Digital Imaging

The Anthropology Division of the American Museum of Natural History, with major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), has been a world leader in the design and implementation of preservation and access programs since the mid-1980s. Innovative preservation facilities have been built for the entire ethnology collection, and access has been made possible for people worldwide who can reference the collection and its associated documentation via the Internet. Digital images are a key component of this documentation. Since 1989, the Anthropology Division has captured over 240,000 images which document the ethnology collections from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas, and has made these images accessible via the Internet.

With significant support from the NEH, the collections were digitally imaged in the following order:

  • North American Ethnographic Collection (1989 - 1995)
  • Asian Ethnographic Collection (1996 - 1999)
  • African Ethnographic Collection (1999 - 2003)
  • Textile Collection, all proveniences (2003 - 2005)
    With a combination of support from the private sector and the NEH, the Anthropology Division has also digitally imaged the Andean archaeological textile collection.
  • Pacific Ethnographic Collection (2005 - 2007)
  • Mexican & Central American and South American Ethnographic Collections (2007 - 2009)
  • Philippines Ethnographic Collection (2009 - 2010)
  • Mexican & Central American Archaeological Collection (2011 - 2013)

The integrated image and text database greatly enhances collections accessibility for researchers and the public, and the Division of Anthropology adheres to established best practices for maintenance of this database.

Digital Imaging Specifications

Images are captured at 6096 x 4558 pixels at 300dpi, providing high-quality images without compromising the rate of production. The images are saved in uncompressed TIFF format and archived to numerous dedicated image servers. The Anthropology Division's Collections Management System and servers are backed-up nightly to guard against hardware failure or data corruption. The images are stored in 24-bit JPEG format in three resolutions:

  • 1024 x 768 (Full)
  • 384 x 256 (Preview)
  • 192 x 128 (Thumbnail)

The images are automatically displayed in the Collections Management System in "preview" resolution along with the object's catalog information. Users may click on the display image for "full" resolution, or they can view a screen of "thumbnail" resolution images.


  • Apple Power Mac G5, Dual 2.3Ghz, 250GB hard drive, 3GB RAM
  • Lacie Photon 20 Vision monitor
  • Gretag Macbeth Eye One Display Monitor Calibrator
  • Hasselblad H2 camera
  • Leaf Aptus 65 Digital Back
  • Bogen Manfrotto tripod
  • Profoto Acute 2 2400 Strobe lighting


  • Apple Mac OS 10.x
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2
  • Leaf Capture 11.x
  • Eye-One Diagnostics