The Curator’s Toolbox
These are the tools I use everyday or pull out for special archiving challenges. All opinions are strictly my own, and reflect my personal experience with the product. I only recommend products I’ve tried and found useful. Affiliate links on this page help support this website, at no additional charge to you. Thank you for your support. Disclosure here.
Epson Perfection Flatbed Scanner with Film Carrier
My scanner of choice is the Epson Perfection series. I have used this line of Epson scanner for over fifteen years to digitize photos, documents, film, slides, and artifacts. The included software is feature rich and allows for batch-scanning, automatic numbering, scanning multiple items at one time, many file formats, and custom resolution (DPI).
One other benefit of this scanner model is it’s ability to scan negatives and slides with the included assortment of film carrier attachments. The inside cover of the scanner lid can be removed to allow light to shine through the film for digitizing. Whenever I find a surprise packet of old negatives I’m very glad I own this scanner.
After several years of hard work my old Epson V450 died and I replaced it with the V500 model. The EpsonScan software has had a few hiccups with Mac upgrades but still performs well after manually updating the Mac drivers. When my V500 stops working I plan to replace it with the current model, now the Epson Perfection V600. The under $200 price point makes this scanner a good value for an digitizing workhorse.
Canon CanoScan LIDE Scanner
This little scanner may be light in weight, but it’s no lightweight when it comes to digitizing documents or photos on research trips. It does not digitize film, slides, or negatives. I’ve used the CanoScan LIDE210 which fits neatly in my computer briefcase and is powered by a single USB cable; it’s great for library and archive research. I find the included Canon Scan software difficult to use and prefer Hamrick VueScan. The current model is the CanoScan LIDE220, a great value at less than $100.
FlipPal Mobile Scanner
Scanning is a boring and lonely activity. The battery-powered Flip-Pal lets me scan snapshots while watching TV, and capture pages at the local library. Image quality is excellent, with a choice of 300 dpi or 600 dpi. I only use the 600 dpi feature. I especially like the Flip-Pal for digitizing oversize items and stitching together images with the included software.
All-in-One Printer, Scanner, Copier
We are a multi-printer/scanner household and I’m fortunate to have choices in scanning equipment. I use an Hewlett-Packard Photosmart 6525 in my office for general color printing and copying, but I rarely use it for scanning. The printer is inconveniently located across the room from my desk and I find it limited by speed and software functionality. I much prefer the Epson line and included software for my scanning tasks.
Remote Camera Shutter Release
If you use a digital camera or smartphone, take advantage of the option to add a remote camera shutter release. This small accessory is essential for low-light photography and will speed-up any large digitizing project. Look for the remote designed to work with your make and model digital camera; wired remotes are less expensive than wireless models. I use the inexpensive CamKix Wireless Camera Shutter Remote for Smartphones with my iPhone.
Joby GorillaPod Flexible Tripod and Mount
This small tripod will hold your compact camera or smartphone steady on a table, a fence, post, or almost anywhere you can wrap the flexible tripod legs. Look for the larger model to hold a DSLR or large camera. Mount sizes are a little fussy; make sure you buy one that fits your smartphone. This is the one tripod I always have ready in my travel bag.
Look for a model that extends at least 60-inches if you plan to mount your camera in order to shoot down on large documents or newspapers. An adjustable ball head and quick release are helpful, along with flip-levers to adjust the legs. Larger DSLR cameras will require a model rated to hold more weight than a small compact camera. I use an older tripod left from film-camera days. It’s heavy but works fine. New, lightweight models like this inexpensive aluminum tripod look promising for travel and smartphone scanning.
Shotbox Portable Photo Light Studio
I first met the Shotbox Photo Studio at RootsTech 2016 and it quickly became my go-to digitizing set-up. No more trembling tripods and make-do lights. The all-in-one Shotbox supports my iPhone or camera, lights the subject for best results, and provides a sharp black or white background. The new Panels add-on have been a fun way to digitize artifacts like china teacups and bronzed baby shoes with various designs for side and bottom backgrounds. Available from Amazon and Shotbox.me.
Photo Cleaning Tools
My old photos are usually dusty and dirty. I use the Rocket Air Blaster to poof loose dust from the picture, followed by a gentle wipe with a PEC-Pad Lint Free Wipe.
Mobile Scanning Apps
The world of smartphone apps is ever-changing. I’ve tried all of these scanning apps, but seem to use GeniusScan and TurboScan most often.
CamScanner – (Android, iOS)
DocScan – (iOS)
Genius Scan – (Android, iOS, Win Phone)
Handy Scanner – (Android)
Scanner Pro – (iOS)
TurboScan – (iOS, Android coming soon!)
Scanning and Stitching Oversize Items
FlipPal Mobile Scanner
with included Scan and Stitch Software
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Use PhotoMerge feature to stitch together scans or digital camera images