Digitizing Microfiche: Строительство Москвы и другие Советские журналы об архитектуре (Building Moscow and other Soviet Journals about Architecture)

Aleksandr Sil'chenkov's Proposal for the "House of Industry" Project, 1929

Another long overdue update.  My two-month absence can be explained by a series of personal matters to which I’ve had to attend, as well as by an exceedingly laborious part of my research in which I’ve been involved.  This post will share some of the fruits of that labor, however, providing a sneak-peak into some of the subjects I’ve been working on.  I flatter myself to think that I am also hereby contributing to the further democratization of knowledge, freeing long-forgotten documents from their obscurity in old libraries and distant archives.  But the truth is that I have been the beneficiary of so much of the work undertaken by people with similar motives, scanning valuable documents and thereby disseminating their information, that I feel this is the least I could do.

Cutting to the matter at hand, the files attached to this post are just some of the old avant-garde journals which I’ve been carefully converting to a readable PDF format, in full-text versions that include illustrations as well as raw text.  The difference between these files and the ones I digitized from Современная архитектура late last year is that I actually never encountered the physical documents that I was working with.  These rare documents were only accessible to me in microfiche and microfilm format, preserved as part of Columbia University’s and the New York Public Library’s effort to catalogue early Soviet periodicals.  Some of these microform documents were in good condition, with minimal dust and other imperfections.  Others, unfortunately, were not.

To briefly describe the process by which I digitized these journals (for those who might be interested or are perhaps considering similar work), I shall here sketch out the major steps it involved.  First, I had to create a makeshift light-table separate from the actual microform scanners at the library, which tend to produce extremely shoddy and unreadable facsimiles.  I then proceeded to photograph each individual frame of microfilm or microfiche with a digital camera.  I personally do not own a camera with a very high-resolution optical lens (this requires something like a 40-100x zoom), so I instead removed one of the detachable high-zoom lenses from one of the scanners and then shot my own pictures at my camera’s maximum zoom through this second lens.  Anyone who has better equipment than I did can easily bypass this step.

It took a while to get used to taking good shots of each individual frame, but once I had gathered all of them I loaded them onto my computer and began running them through image-processing software.  The number of programs I ended up using, which probably could be simplified by anyone who knows how to work with images better than I, included Aperture, Photoshop, and the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP).  If anyone is interested in the actual adjustments I made to each file to render them more readable, they can inquire in the comments section.  I shall spare my readers these boring details.  Anyway, clarifying the text portions of these journals I found often distorted the images that appeared alongside them, and so I decided to process each page with images twice, once for the images and once for the text.  I then mapped on some cleaned-up versions of the pictures onto the cleaned-up texts and ran the resulting images through the ABBYY FineReader text-recognition program.

The final product of this whole confounded process can be found below.  Enjoy! More will be coming soon.  I’ve catalogued the entire run of Строительство Москвы from 1926-1932, Советская архитектура from 1931-1934, and a number of assorted articles relating to architecture from the journals Советское искусство, Плановое хозяйство, and Революция и культура.  They shall be forthcoming.  Here are some of the ones I’ve finished so far:

Строительство Москвы – (1928) – № 9

Строительство Москвы – (1931) – № 8

Строительство Москвы – (1930) – № 1

Строительство Москвы – (1929) – № 1

Строительство Москвы – (1928) – № 4

Строительство Москвы – (1928) – № 2

Строительство Москвы – (1928) – № 3

Николай Докучаев – «Архитектура и планировка городов» – Советское искусство – (1926) – № 6

9 thoughts on “Digitizing Microfiche: Строительство Москвы и другие Советские журналы об архитектуре (Building Moscow and other Soviet Journals about Architecture)

  1. An outstanding labor of love. Particularly so when considering the many technical obstacles. I’m truly impressed with both your commitment to a potentially tedious project and with the fine results. Thank you! I look forward to your future posts.

  2. It is nice to hear from you again.

    We live in interesting times, with the revolutionary process starting in Tunisia of all places.

    Really interesting research you are doing.

    • Indeed. I am interested in hearing your take on the recent protests and regime changes going on in the Middle East. I hesitate to call them “revolutions” until I am confident that they will bring about progressive change and advance the political freedoms of the countries’ citizens. So until I see what emerges from all this chaos, I reserve judgment and certainly abstain from any unwarranted enthusiasm. Of course, I am not sad to see these stagnant and corrupt dictatorships go. Honestly, I think the best possible outcome would be the establishment of stable secular democracies with broad civil liberties. It’s about time that region pulled itself out of backwardness and religious fanaticism. What’s your appraisal of the whole situation?

  3. Hi Ross, I just found your website and downloaded the Stroitel’stvo Moskvy issues. Thank you so much for sharing them! I am a phd. student in architectural history (at mit), doing Soviet architecture, and these kinds of things are a real treasure! My dissertation is about psychologism in Soviet architecture (that is, basically, Rationalism). Are you also working on a project related to Soviet architecture?
    All the best and many thanks again, Alla

    • Yes, I’m working on a Master’s Thesis for the University of Chicago on Soviet architectural modernism. You should check out the issue of Izvestiia ASNOVA I uploaded as well.

  4. Hi Ross, Many many thanks for this fantastic work. It’s really helpfull ! I’ll send you very soon a bigger comment on my work concerning all this. But for now, I just would like to ask you why it’s impossible to download all these issues of Building Moscow. is there something particular to do ?

  5. Hi, It looks like the links above no longer work- Is there any way you could check- I’d love to have a good look. Thanks

Leave a Reply