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Canoscan LIDE 200: Using Plexiglass to Flatten Documents

Like many researchers, I use a Canoscan LIDE 200 to scan archival records where it's allowed. It's small (easily fits into my messenger bag next to my computer), lightweight (3.5 lbs), inexpensive (currently $75 on Amazon),  convenient (connects to my computer with a USB cable), and it works great.

The challenge has been scanning tri-folded documents from a hundred years ago. It's impossible to flatten them so it's hard to keep them straight while closing the scanner cover. I've finally found a solution.

A few weeks ago I had the clerk at my local hardware store cut a piece of thin plexiglass slightly smaller than the glass on the scanning bed. There's a small lip around the scanning glass and when I set the plexiglass against it the plexiglass becomes a see-through cover. I put the paper on the glass, straighten it, bring the plexiglass down on the page, and make sure the paper underneath is straight. Then I close the actual cover and scan. The plexiglass doesn't seem to affect the image quality.

And what about stapled tri-fold documents that can't be unfastened? It's not always possible to use the plexiglass in those cases, but a double-thick file folder or piece of poster board used in place of the stiff scanner cover can make it easier to line up those documents for scanning.

Comments

Barbara Poole said…
Cleaver idea. I've got to remember it. Many thanks.
Jacqi Stevens said…
Handy solution! I've run into that problem scanning quite a few old documents and letters passed along to me as the unofficial family "archivist." In that case, I have the luxury of scanning at home...but I came up with a makeshift solution much the same as your fall-back plan.

I have to laugh at the suggestion to go to a local hardware store, though. Those places seem to be a thing of the past around here. For any such unusual one-shot custom needs, we've resorted to using Tap Plastics, which can serve as an alternative to any of your readers living on the west coast. I'm sure there are other options like that in the rest of the country, too.

I also appreciate your inadvertent plug for your portable scanner. Sounds like a recommendation worth following up on to me!
Cyndy said…
That inadvertant plug? It was intentional. : ) It's a great scanner and as I was Googling around yesterday trying to find its weight I noticed that there might be a newer model out.

I live north of Chicago and people here seem to value the local stores that make up the village's small downtown shopping area. There's a history to them. Something to be preserved. I guess I shouldn't take that for granted.

Barbara, Jacqi--thanks for the comments!

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