This poster will present a digital curation project we are engaged in to assess the DTE Aerial Photo Collection, a resource managed by Wayne State University Libraries. This collection includes approximately 30,000 high-resolution digitized aerial photographs, taken between 1949 and 1997 and covering five counties in the Detroit metropolitan area: Wayne, Monroe, Oakland, Macomb, and St. Clair. These photos see heavy use by the public and government officials, but access, discovery, and preservation are hampered by their current storage in PDF files. This arrangement limits the library team’s ability to integrate them with Wayne State’s current platform, which provides IIIF access to over 50,000 other photos and documents relating to Detroit history and culture.
For this project, we will identify and evaluate scalable methods for extracting the images as TIFFs or JPGs, generating external metadata, and linking them with approximate geographic coordinates. Transforming these resources, now largely visual, into a more machine-workable format will enhance access and discovery of these valuable images by enabling comparison of materials within the collection and across Wayne State's archival holdings. Our preliminary investigations have focused on exploring Adobe Acrobat’s image extraction tools and using Python libraries to unpack and parse the PDF bitstream. Our poster will communicate our methods and results—solutions we considered, assessment of their suitability, and the final image extraction and description workflow—with the aim of supporting digital curation work on similar materials at other cultural heritage institutions.