The National Archives' digitisation services

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We are increasingly using our expertise to help other archives, businesses and private organisations develop and modernise their own collections. We can help you do this.


ENRICH EXPLORE ENHANCEYOUR ARCHIVESDIGITISATION SERVICESThe National Archives is the official archive of the UK Government and for England and Wales. We are the guardians of some of the most iconic national documents, dating back over 1,000 years.THE NATIONAL ARCHIVESOur repositories are filled with priceless treasures: our nations story can be read through the documents and artefacts we hold. From the Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.CONTENTSTHE NATIONAL ARCHIVES 1WHY DIGITISE? 3HOW WE CAN HELP YOU 5TRUSTED ADVICE 7CONSERVATION 9DIGITAL IMAGE CAPTURE 11LEVEL OF CARE 13OUR CLIENTS 15WANT TO KNOW MORE? 17PRESERVING INFORMATION FOR THE FUTUREOur 21st century role is to collect and secure the future of the record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible and available as possible. We serve millions of customers every year, both in person at Kew and online, making us one of the largest and most successful archives in the world.ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 23 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESWHY DIGITISE?GENERATING INCOMEMany documents contain information that can have a commercial value when presented to the right audiences. Digitisation unlocks this potential to create new income streams.BRANDOpening up your archives can benefit your brand by inspiring new audiences and raising the profile of the institution. Many modern brands are rediscovering the value of their brand heritage.ACCESS The information in documents can be published in a number of ways and made available to global audiences, so that access is no longer restricted to those able to visit the physical location, saving both time and travel costs. There is also the ability to access existing resources which have been previously limited by their format, such as large maps and materials stored on microfilm.More and more businesses are adding value to their collections through developing digitisation initiatives. Every organisation has different priorities but the benefits of digitisation include:SEARCHABILITYCapturing the right descriptive data from a digitised document makes finding relevant content much easier, and helps maximise research efficiency. This also supports more innovative methods of research.ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 4PRESERVATIONFollowing digitisation, physical documents will not need to be accessed as often, therefore reducing potential damage caused by handling.INTERACTIONDigitised content is versatile and can be used to communicate with customers across a range of channels. It is a particularly strong tool for social media, opening dialogue with customers and encouraging activity such as crowdsourcing and blogging.INTEGRATIONRecords can be integrated with digital systems and made readily discoverable within digital catalogues.DISASTER RECOVERYPaper records are vulnerable to many risks. If a site disaster leads to loss of analogue formats, digital copies can ensure information remains retrievable.HOW WE CAN HELP YOUAt the National Archives, we have been imaging our own vast collection of records since the 1960s, initially producing microfilm. We began the shift to digital outputs over ten years ago, and now digitise around 8 million pages of archival material per year.OUR DIGITISATION SERVICES TEAMWe have built up significant experience and a highly qualified team of digitisation experts. Although we continue to digitise our own material, we also have capacity to undertake digitisation projects for other organisations and are able to offer a professional service using our own resources.NO DIGITISATION PROJECT IS TOO BIG OR TOO SMALLWhatever the size of your archive, and whatever the aims of your digitisation programme, our digitisation services team can help. We appreciate that each archive and collection is unique and our team will work with you to develop a bespoke service to meet your specific requirements, incorporating any or all of the services we offer.5 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESYOUR DIGITISATION PROJECTWe are increasingly using our expertise to help other archives, businesses and private organisations develop and modernise their own collections. We understand the complexities of the process, and can help you articulate your requirements and turn them into a successful project. OUR DIGITISATION SERVICES INCLUDE: Free on-site consultation and advice Conservation services and expert document preparation Digitisation of original documents and microfilm Secure storage of material Creation of different file types to suit your records (TIFF, JPEG, JPEG2000, PDF) Metadata creation Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and transcription Advice on preservation and data storage solutionsENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 67 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESThe first stage of a digitisation project is to define the business requirements, as these guide everything that follows. We can provide advice and guidance to help you do this, creating a solution that meets your long-term strategic needs. TRUSTED ADVICEPROJECT ESTIMATIONThe estimation team work to understand exactly how much digitisation is required. An accurate estimation is achieved by: A physical page count of each document An overview of project specifications; image file format and resolution Learning about any requirements for Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or transcription Consideration of transportation of the documents from and to the clients premises The key to a successful digitisation project is to fully understand the material and the requirements of the organisation. We take time and effort to get to grips with this, and produce estimates that are based on physical evidence and the results of detailed analysis. Through our years of experience, we recognise that there is no such thing as a safe assumption; putting the effort in to scope out a project accurately invariably leads to a smooth process. We will work with you to understand your needs in order to produce a robust plan that can be delivered on time and to budget. To begin this process, please email us at:, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 89 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 10CONSERVATIONRecords and documents in archive collections are often delicate and fragile. Due to the physical nature of digitisation, there is a risk that if not managed appropriately, document condition could worsen.THE TEAMManaged by a professionally accredited conservation manager, our specialist team of qualified paper and book conservators are skilled in stabilising and conserving records. They can lend the techniques they use in conserving our collection to the preparation of your records for digitisation. The team has responsibility for all conservation elements of digitisation projects, ensuring that preservation of the documents is maintained throughout the process. BENEFITS OF CONSERVATION IN A DIGITISATION PROJECT: Protects and stabilises documents, allowing them to be digitised Allows more efficient image capture as documents are more robust Reveals text that has previously been illegible due to damage/folds/dirt Achieves optimum image quality Reduces reputational risk to the organisation11 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESOur thorough knowledge of the digitisation process, equipment and capture techniques ensure we fulfil the specified requirements, matching the expectations of your project plan. The team will ensure that image capture is completed to the requested technical standard, and that all images are processed correctly and to the high degree of accuracy you would expect from The National Archives.DIGITAL IMAGE CAPTUREWE NOW DIGITISE AROUND 8 MILLION PAGES OF ARCHIVAL MATERIAL PER YEARTHE STUDIO Our digitisation studio is located on-site at Kew. We have the equipment, dedicated facilities and specialist staff to offer a range of services. We specialise in capturing high volumes of digital images from large collections, and with our state of the art equipment we can digitise a wide range of materials.We can output images in a variety of formats, and onto many types of media to suit individual requirements. At each stage in the digitisation process we provide stringent quality assurance, checking that images meet the required standards.WE DIGITISE A RANGE OF FORMATS Bound volumes Manuscripts Rolls and parchments Newspapers Maps, plans and technical drawings Photographs Blueprints Oversized material (A0+) Negatives and glass plates Transparencies MicrofilmWe also have the capability in our studio to digitise large-scale documents, such as maps, on our large format equipment.ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 1213 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESLEVEL OF CAREWe understand that fragile and precious records require a high level of care and it is important that they are returned to you in the same condition. IMAGES ARE CHECKED FOR: Legibility Material completion File size Image position Numbering Folder structure Naming Metadata accuracy Missing or duplicate imagesSAFE HANDLING AND STORAGEWe use specialist book rests, cradles and weights to prevent the risk of any damage to original items. All records are stored and copied in a secure environment by operators with many years of experience, using digitisation equipment approved by our expert conservators to minimise the risk of document damage.QUALITY ASSURANCEWe believe that quality assurance is a crucial stage in the digitisation process. It enables us to deliver projects with the confidence that the images have been precisely captured, thoroughly checked, and are the best possible surrogate of the original material. Following imaging, our dedicated team of quality assurance technicians perform 100% checks against the original material.ADDITIONAL SERVICESWe go beyond simple image capture to offer services for archive cataloguing and metadata preparation. Metadata can range from basic information, such as the date of digitisation and image number, to complex embedded content. The ability to translate data and information from a digital document into searchable text transforms the onward use of the record.We can recommend and deliver the best possible solution depending on the nature of the original material. We work with a network of trusted partners to offer manual transcription, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and various redaction services, as appropriate.ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 14We wanted to digitise 15 volumes of First World War Rolls of Honour, as part of the Cathedrals plans to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. We chose to work with The National Archives digitisation services team because we were impressed by their on-site facilities and professional, committed approach to ensuring that the volumes would be held securely, and handled appropriately according to their fragile nature.In the beginning stages of discussion, the team visited us on-site to survey the overall condition of the volumes and advise the best handling methods. They also offered to undertake conservation work on the volumes. We were then invited to visit the digitisation and conservation studios, and shown the equipment that would be used to digitise the volumes. Everyone we spoke to within the digitisation services team were extremely accommodating, allowing us to retrieve some of the volumes as and when we needed to. The volumes were digitised quickly and within the promised time frame. I would recommend The National Archives digitisation services to other archives, particularly those with material of a very fragile nature.Sarah Radford, Archivist, St Pauls CathedralOUR CLIENTSWe have worked with a variety of organisations, helping to preserve a number of culturally significant heritage collections in the UK.15 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 16We had plans in place to digitise some of our treasured book collections (1902-1929), for preservation purposes. As a newly qualified, lone archivist undertaking my first ever digitisation project, I sought the support of a trusted service, with expertise in the archive sector. Following a one day course at The National Archives, I contacted their digitisation services team who quickly came to visit me on-site, talking me through the whole process. Everything was thoroughly discussed, so that I understood the technical, naming and conservation aspects of the project. I felt confident that the team would handle our material responsibly, and reassured that I would be able to manage the images once the material had been digitised.I found the digitisation services team to be extremely professional in their approach but also very friendly, patient and reassuring in the delivery. I was very pleased with the outcome and enjoyed working with them. I learnt a lot and really appreciated the support and guidance I received throughout the whole process. I would have no hesitation in recommending The National Archives digitisation services to others in the field.Karen Syrett, Archivist/Librarian/Curator, The British AcademyBlack Cultural ArchivesBritish AcademyBTCoventry UniversityMarylebone Cricket ClubNational Army MuseumSt Pauls CathedralThe National GalleryThe Stationers Company17 | ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICESWANT TO KNOW MORE?If you have any questions about the services we can provide or would like to discuss your requirements, please email or call +44 (0)20 8876 3444 ext 2416. We will be happy to provide general guidance and obligation-free quotations upon request.ENRICH, EXPLORE, ENHANCE YOUR ARCHIVES | DIGITISATION SERVICES | 18The National ArchivesKewRichmondSurrey TW9 4DU Tel: +44 (0) 20 8876 3444 ext 2416Facebook: @uknatarchivesEmail: Crown copyright 2015You may re-use this document/publication (not including logos) free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0. To view this licence visit; or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU; or enquiries regarding this document/publication should be sent to us at


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