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1579progress on Jamestown archives digitisation

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  • A.H.Schulenburg
    Oct 27, 2012
      This St Helena news release will be of great interest to all list members.


      24 October 2012

      Dr Andy Pearson leaves the Island this week following six week’s work on the St Helena Archives Pilot Digitisation Project.

      The digitisation pilot is funded by the British Library who recognise the historical importance of the St Helena Archives and the potential risk to records from long term deterioration, insect infestation or other serious and irreplaceable loss.

      The aim of the pilot is to audit the archives collection as a whole, digitise the earliest records (beginning with ‘Goodwins Abstracts’, 1673-1707), provide training for local staff and lay the foundations for a potential major project grant under the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP). This is where Andy comes in, and his stay on the Island has been dedicated to auditing the historical collection and training staff at the Archives and Museum in the techniques of photographing and cataloguing.
      The process of digitisation is very time consuming and requires a lot of patience. Andy explained that the process is very precise and for every book you must start with the cover and then photograph every page including any blank pages. Some of the more delicate records require very careful handling. Each photographed file is then an accurate account of text and artefact.

      Andy said:

      “The aim of the project is to gradually build up a digital library of volumes. To prevent data loss the digital volumes will then be stored on a series of hard drives split between the St Helena Archives and Museum and the British Library in London.”
      To enable the digitisation of this collection, the British Library has provided the Archives with an expensive camera and lens which produces high quality images.

      Around 1600 volumes in total need to be digitised. Under the EAP (which only provides for records up to the 1900s to be digitised) this amounts to 800 books averaging 400 pages. To date, Andy has digitised 10 books which have produced approximately 2500 images. He estimates that the entire job will take around 18 -24 months full time to complete. The staff who have been trained by Andy have the capacity to continue with the digitisation after he departs on Friday, but it is envisioned that two new jobs will also be created under this important project.

      The long term ambition is to digitise every book and record in the Archives, so a major bid under the EAP will be submitted in February 2013. If successful, the bid will enable all pre-1900 artefacts to be digitised and provide modern and dedicated storage for these vital records.

      Andy commented:

      “The digitisation of the St Helena Archives is such a worthwhile project. The end result will be a durable record that can be accessed by tourists and academics alike at both the Archives and Research Centre at the Museum. It tells the fascinating St Helena story from the earliest days.”

      24 October 2012
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