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This digitisation project shows how a small museum has repurposed digital content to meet the needs of its audience, achieving a great deal with limited resources.
• Catalogue the collection
• Digitise the collection
• Make the collection more accessible to the public
The value of including images in the Dornoch Historylinks catalogue was recognised in early 2004. At that point approximately 30% (c 2000 objects) of the collection had been recorded. A target of 2008 was set to complete the cataloguing backlog, with parallel image capture. Fortunately, a newly recruited part-time member of the museum staff was keen to fill quiet moments during visitor reception duties, scanning postcards, photographs, negatives, colour slides and documents.
Digitisation process and storage
• Image files names consistent with ADLIB catalogue number
• Storage in master files with sub-folders by year for each file type (PDF, TIFF, MP3)
• Documents created as PDF files with JPEGS of individual pages for thumbnails
Additional Benefits of Catalogue Images
Linking images to ADLIB catalogue records provided a simple means to create subject- related albums as slide shows. These were made available to the public on the museum’s public access computer, located in our modest reference library area, in addition to a limited-field version of the ADLIB catalogue. The slide shows grew in range and number as our cataloguing and image capture progressed and it became our practice to have a slide show running at any time the PC was not being used by a visitor. This visitor facility developed over 2004 – 2005 to include access to slide shows of donated photograph albums, boxes of colour slides and documents of particular local interest.
Progression to Interactive Image Display
The museum’s target of 2008 for completion of the cataloguing backlog proved generous and it was completed before the end of 2007. However, with limitations in the number of volunteers involved, we could not achieve matching progress in backlog image capture and by the end of 2007 approximately 50% of our catalogue records had linked images.
Since the introduction of slide shows in 2004 we had noted increasing interest in images of school groups, sports teams and local events in which visitors might be able to spot themselves, relatives or friends. We often received visitor feedback of background information for addition to our records. In contrast, visitor interest in access to our catalogue was limited and it became obvious that our public access version of ADLIB did not provide the ease of searching and presentation required. The museum’s Trustees decided that the time had come to acquire a user-friendly means for comprehensive searching and access to images and relevant textual information. It was agreed that a facility for user feedback formed a highly desirable system requirement.
At the beginning of 2008 there was a trawl of the market to review available software options. A web-based approach offered the best means to meet our current and future needs. Eventually we selected the local Cromarty-based company, Plexus Media Ltd on the basis of their development of community and museum image library websites. Their software met all our requirements including an interactive facility for users to add comments about images.
Preparations for Image Library
Our initial meeting with Plexus confirmed the suitability of the software to meet the museum’s needs. It was agreed that an additional ‘Dornoch Historylinks Image Library’ (DHIL) website would be developed, hosted by Plexus Media and ‘seeded’ by batch uploading of the then available 4000 catalogue records and images.
Each ‘Picture page’ of the DHIL would contain basic data drawn from our ADLIB database including, catalogue number, title, description, date and keyword. The exported text and images were supplied to Plexus in March 2008 and while they developed the website, the museum project manager began the process of recruiting volunteer website administrators.
Website administrator duties and process
• Adding new images and descriptive text
• Administration of user comments within the understanding that comments should contain additional factual or background information.
• Documentation provided by the ‘Image Library Administrators’ Manual’ from Plexus and the draft DHIL Protocols and Procedures document
With 4000 images uploaded in the batch process, each administrator was allocated an initial batch of 300 picture pages for checking, with responsibility to edit text as required and report any images considered in need of enhancement for viewing online. The rate of progress varied but within four weeks all 4000 images and associated data had been checked. The process also provided valuable additional auditing of catalogue records.
The website was launched on 1 June 2008, providing access to 4000 catalogued objects with images from the museum collection. Primary access was from the existing Historylinks website www.historylinks.org.uk . The timeframe from detailed negotiation through to launch had taken 3 months.
Post Launch Activity
• Uploading additional images for individual records as the original export from ADLIB included only the first image associated with a record.
• 500 Picture pages and over 100 PDF files added DHIL in July 08
• 200 image uploads in subsequent months. Uploading process simplified by the use of flash pens for downloading files from the museum catalogue PC.
• A Museums Galleries Scotland grant awarded in July 2008 will enable the museum to employ a seasonal member of staff for three days per week from November 2008 to March 2009 to complete the backlog image capture. The grant will also enable us to commission studio photography of a large 1783 map of the Dornoch area. The resultant TIFF file will enable close-up on the DHIL using the ‘Zoomify’ facility. A further element of the grant will be used to commission Plexus work in the enhancement of selected images for website viewing, the Zoomify process for the 1783 map and selected aerial photographs from the museum collection.
• A target date of 31 March 2009 has been set for images and relevant detail of the complete museum collection to be available on the DHIL. Thereafter the museum aims to upload of catalogued images and data within one month of acquisition.
Overall the image library has provided:
• value for money
• valuable feedback in both comments and statistics
• excellent search facilities that are now routinely used in various museum activities
• the opening of the ‘Aladdin’s Cave’, permitting public access to the museum’s total collection, the majority of which would otherwise remain hidden in store
The principal lessons learnt by the time of launch of this website were:
• the advantages gained by initial batch uploading of images and data outweigh the additional commissioning expenditure
• structure administrative functionality and searching around catalogue number where possible
• documentation on image library protocols and procedures should be compiled from the outset; as with all IT developments, what seems obvious one day can be forgotten the next – record as you go!
• as a matter of routine all administrators should note and inform the project manager of images requiring enhancement for website viewing
• copyright issues present a problem – in particular, for many postcards the originator and publisher remain unknown
The Dornoch Historylinks Image Library is an engaging example of how a small museum can work with volunteer staff to produce a valuable website, which both engages and interacts with online visitors. The focus of the digitisation has shifted from the original collections management task to providing public access online and shows how properly created digital resources can be used for a variety of purposes, to both enhance working practices and enrich the offering to the public.
An announcement of the launch was published in the local newspaper the Northern Times on 5 June and on that and the following day 1687 and 1725 ‘hits’ were recorded. Within ten days there were 8 comments submitted, 5 of which produced factual or background information subsequently added to our ADLIB catalogue records.
Current evaluation focuses on the website statistics for the DHIL. Site analysis offers useful information on numbers of visits, page and image views, referral sites and search terms.
1st Jun 2005
1st Jun 2008
25th Nov 2008