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Find out how we digitized historic wallpaper

November 10, 2014

Over the past two years, Historic New England has been cataloguing and digitizing the region's largest wallpaper collection as part of a project made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Our collection includes rolled, flat, oversize, and three-dimensional materials, each of which requires unique handling and digitization methods. Creating high-resolution images allows you to view these delicate materials up close while reducing the need to handle them.

Tim Tiebout digitizes wallpaper
Tim Tiebout, digital photographer, operates a high resolution Hasselblad camera to digitize wallpaper samples.

Each image includes color references and an embedded ruler, which allows us to ensure color accuracy and image quality while also providing information to viewers.

Each material type poses different digitization challenges. Rolled samples need to be carefully unrolled and kept flat using archival mat board, weights, and glass.

Oversize samples, including scenic patterns or paper with especially long repeating patterns, are photographed in multiple images, which we then stitch together using the same technology that allows photographers to create panoramic images. This way, we can capture a high-resolution file despite the large size of the object.

A chest covered in wallpaper
Multiple shots of this chest give the viewer a complete sense of the object.


Three-dimensional items include chests, bandboxes, or architectural fragments covered in wallpaper. These are photographed on a moveable stand with a seamless background made of curved paper. We take three or four images of these objects so that you can experience them from multiple angles.

This video takes you behind the scenes of the wallpaper digitization project:

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Find out how we digitized historic wallpaper