Creating The Definitive Muscogee 221 Insignia Guide – the Author’s Story Part 2
Despite my eagerness to get started, I needed to first plan out the book’s format and its scope. It is well-known in the patch collecting community that many issues fall into more than one category and are not always easy to label. I had to decide if I wanted to follow traditional cataloging conventions or create my own. After much personal grief an inner turmoil, I consulted with Jeff and Tripp to get their thoughts. In the end I decided to use a hybrid format in which I would use the naming conventions from the original OA Blue Book, but organize issues into my own sections for the purpose of chapters.
Defining the scope of the book’s contents was perhaps even more difficult, though in retrospect it was the most important piece of the whole puzzle. The original title for my book was The Definitive Muscogee Lodge #221 Collector’s Guide, and it quickly became apparent that this was a poor choice. Because in order to be the most thorough guide for Muscogee collections, in theory it would have to contain every single item ever emblazoned with the word “Muscogee” or the number “221.” Every t-shirt, pencil, ditty bag, mug, and trading post tchotchke would have had to be photographed and documented. Obviously this would make the project exponentially larger in scale, so I decided to narrow it down a bit.
As I explained in the book’s foreword, I intended to include only those lodge issues that were meant to be worn with a BSA class-A uniform: lodge flaps, activity patches, neckerchiefs, neckerchief slides, and so on. I revised the book’s title to reflect this change, and The Definitive Muscogee Lodge #221 Insignia Guide was born.
I wanted to make the appearance of the book as clean as I could, and so I decided to split it into two parts. The first section consists of thirteen chapters, each outlining a major category of insignia. The second section is a series of nine appendices which covers topics ranging from issue variations to stories about particular pieces to maps illustrating camp locations. The second half is my favorite part of the book and was the most fun to assemble. I feel the book’s true value is contained in this latter half, as it contains most of the information that was lesser known prior to its publication.
It took a lot of shuffling to get things in the right places, but I am pleased with the way the book is laid out. If you’re strictly a collector, you can read through the first half of the book and get the information you need to assemble a set of flaps or whatever it is that you’re going after. You don’t have to skip over pages of historical narrative or flip through any non-essential “fluff” to find what you’re looking for. The back half is only for those of us who want to go beyond the cloth-- and that’s a lot of the fun for me in the hobby.
The first software I tried using was Microsoft Publisher. Though I had never used it before, I had used other products from the Office suite since I was a kid and figured it would be a logical solution. It was pretty easy to pick up, and before long I was making pages left and right. But it wasn’t until I’d really spent a significant amount of hours creating content that I realized some of the limitations of Publisher—specifically that it wasn’t as granular in its ability to layout pages as I’d have liked. Frustrated, but ultimately wanting a professional final product that was exactly as I had envisioned it, I scrapped the entire thing, got a copy of Adobe InDesign, and started over.
InDesign was a whole new beast, and another piece of software that I had zero experience with prior to this endeavor. Having taught myself other Adobe products in the past, namely Photoshop and Illustrator, I set out to do the same with InDesign. The first few nights were spent deep in Google searches and YouTube tutorials, but once I had the basics down I began to recreate the page layouts I’d done in Publisher.
While I’m not intentionally picking on them, what kills me about a lot of the websites such as OAImages.com is that their images are of such vastly different quality. Some issues are scanned with incredible clarity, and others are seemingly photographed with potatoes. This was something I wanted to make sure I corrected in my book. I wanted crisp, clear images that left no detail in the dark and maintained the same level of quality throughout.
For this reason, I decided to do all of my scanning at 600dpi. I read online that some of the most expensive printers are only capable of producing images at 300dpi, so I doubled that number in order to future-proof my work. Also, because a good number of our issues are only distinguishable--or are more easily distinguished--by looking at their backs, I knew from the start that I wanted to include images of both sides of each documented issue. This almost doubled the total amount of work (ten flaps front and back becomes twenty scans), but it certainly lent itself to the overall goal of total thoroughness.
Once scanned, I dumped the images into Photoshop for some quick touchups. The most common adjustment I made was removing shadows, which were sometimes picked up on thicker patches (read: fully embroidered patches with rolled edges) during scanning. This was pure OCD on my part and required a good deal of additional effort, but the final printed product looks much better for it. I also cropped off most of the extra whitespace and adjusted some images’ contrast to better highlight certain details for the appendix containing variations.
I would estimate that I spent around 300 hundred hours doing the work I’ve described up to this point. And after documenting my entire personal collection, I had probably 75% of the book done. The missing parts entailed pieces I was missing, issue details such as the quantity made or who designed them, and much of the “lore” that I wished to document. What I didn’t expect was that the last 25% would take just as long to do as the first 75%.
This is Part 2 in a 3 Part series on his experience writing the lodge insignia guide
Contributed by the author David Goza
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