An overstatement, maybe, to say that one undergrad held the history of Harpers in the back of his beat-up used Subaru, but it certainly makes a good post lead.
Barringer: How did you first get started on the project? I mean, what did you do, literally, first? Did you even have an office? Or a scanner?
Ford: I did a great deal of hacking in Perl and Java to create a working prototype website. I bought a cheap scanner so that I could figure out how to connect scans to the database. After a tremendous amount of research, we bought a Fujitsu 5750C scanner, which is a wonderful piece of equipment that delivers quality color scans at 600dpi, sheet-fed.
Barringer: Did you have to hunt down the archival issues?
Ford: I was able to make a deal with Bennington College, thanks to Library Director Oceana Wilson; they gave us their back issues in exchange for online access. An undergrad drove the volumes down one day—dozens of heavy boxes.
Having a full spare copy of the archive meant we could cut the spines of the Bennington volumes and feed sheets to the scanner instead of manually scanning each page. This saved thousands of hours.
(Excerpted from interview, here.) Apparently, Ford expects to have to redo the project in a few years, when technology leaps ahead and allows for better resolution.