How to document historical graffiti?

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Re: How to document historical graffiti?

Postby silvermanphoto » May 3, 2013 11:37 pm

Nicely done. Great solution to copy them. Regarding skimming the signatures at an angle with a strobe light, and finding that the light was uneven: Try moving the light further away from the signatures but still skim at the same angle. Light fall-off will be less intense that way.
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Re: How to document historical graffiti?

Postby JD » May 6, 2013 7:59 am

Grafitti conveys at least three "types" of information: the content, the orthography [style], and the media. I try to record all three. Content is simply copied down. I also note in writing the media, since there are some temporal parameters for some of them (I.e carbide is post 1900, spray-paint is post WW II) and I photograph them as well, to help record the style (block letters, 19th century letter with serifs, use of first of two s, etc.).

If it is big project I have other recommendations about using a spreadsheet and linking the locations to the map. learned the hard way at Hubbards Cave. Which may require mapping.

Explore the photos through various manipulations using contrast, b & W etc. See the article I write with M.O.Smith and Jan F. Simek in the Journal of Spelean History on Identification of a Civil War Soldier's Name in South Carthage Cave for an example of data manipulation.

Best of luck. I also have some ideas about researching the names once recorded.

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Re: How to document historical graffiti?

Postby GroundquestMSA » May 6, 2013 7:53 pm

Many thanks Dr. Douglas. I'm trying to find the article you mentioned. Is it it online anywhere?

I've got most of the content. Some of it is not legible so I'm copying down what I see with the intention of comparing the possibilities to names of individuals who lived in the area, as found in census records and local biographical sketches. I'm trying to record the style simply by drawing what's there, an imperfect solution, but perhaps useful. I've photographed the big bold writing too. The media is all the same, carvings in the dolomite walls.
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Re: How to document historical graffiti?

Postby graveleye » May 13, 2013 2:15 pm

I'm not sure how many signatures were recorded in the Kingston Saltpeter Cave, but they are probably in the thousands. One of the early committee members wrote them all down, every single one.

I don't know what your photographic constraints are, but my wife and I took some really good photos of some of the panels in remarkable detail, all with a simple point and shoot Canon camera. I'll try to post some of them up when I get some time at home.

One cool thing I experimented with was using a simple digital photo editor and reversing the image to negative. This caused some of the images to just jump out, and revealed some etchings that were super faint. It brought out a lot of detail that really wasn't apparent to the eye.
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Re: How to document historical graffiti?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Aug 2, 2013 10:23 am

Here's the finished product. There were more than I realized. Does it make sense?
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Re: How to document historical graffiti?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Mar 15, 2014 10:50 am

In a cave we surveyed yesterday, I found more old writiing on the walls. Instead of being carved, this was script, written, I assume, with a pencil. The dates were from the 1920's but I found it interesting that the writing seems to have been covered with a thin layer of flowstone. The writing was only visible in the areas that were wet, and when we carefully wetted the adjacent wall, more writing showed. I discreetly tried to alter one line by rubbing, with no result. I'll try to load a photo, but the glare makes it hard to see the lettering. I want to confirm the medium if possible. Is it common for flowstone to preserve or bury old writing, or is the longevity of this graffiti due to some other factor?
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