Liya Yussubaliyeva, ’24 (left), and Shannon Ferri, ’25 (right), bring experience in photography and restoration to their digitization work with SLU Libraries.
SLU Libraries has hired two new imaging assistants, Shannon Ferri, ’25, and Liya Yussubaliyeva, ’24, to work with Digital Scholarship and Special Collections on a variety of digitization projects.
Ferri is an Art History major from Cold Spring, New York who hopes to work as an art restorer one day. She sees this position as a natural extension of an internship she completed during her senior year of high school, where she helped restore textiles and books that had been damaged in a fire at the Chinese Museum in New York City.
Yussubaliyeva comes to St. Lawrence University from Astana, Kazakhstan. She brings an interest in photography and a familiarity with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. She is considering a Performance and Communication Arts major and is currently taking a Digital Media class that allows her to build on her existing skills.
Yussubaliyeva said her love of photography led her to apply for the position. “I also find it really interesting to work with archives because you don’t get access to them otherwise,” she said.
The imaging students are currently digitizing the Hernández Family Papers, a collection of more than four hundred letters and documents from the Hernández family of Cuba and New York that dates from the 1830s to the 1910s. St. Lawrence University acquired the collection in 2006. Once completed, the current digitization project will allow users to view the collection via an online repository.
Both Ferri and Yussubaliyeva said they appreciated the workflow they had developed as a team while working on the Hernández papers, where Ferri handles and sets up the documents and Yussubaliyeva takes the photographs and organizes the digital files.
Ferri said she strives to line up each document just right and to achieve the sharpest focus possible. She said capturing the ideal image of a document was always satisfying. “The artist in me is like, ‘Ah, it looks so perfect,’” she said.
“The teamwork is really fun,” Yussubaliyeva went on to say. “I feel like we just go well together in the workspace.”
Both students said the age and condition of the documents could present many challenges, such as rips, wrinkles, folds, smudges, bleeding ink, and burn damage on the edges.
Ferri said she appreciated the challenge of working with documents that are so damaged or frail they present themselves as “puzzles.”
“The documents are always different,” she said. “Sometimes we’ll take one out and we’ll be like, ‘Okay, how do we photograph this one?’ Some of them are in so many pieces you have to perfectly fit them together to take the picture—so like, literally a puzzle. Which is my favorite part.”
Both students said they could see themselves continue to draw on the skills they are developing in this position. Ferri said she is excited to have more experience handling fragile documents, while Yussubaliyeva said she appreciated learning more about the camera work and settings as well as the digitization workflow as a whole.