Before the scanning

The National Library of Wales has a good amount of experience when it comes to digitisation. Digitising items within the library’s collections has been an ongoing programme for over 10 years, with the Digital Mirror showcasing archives, maps, printed material, manuscripts and images. However, much of this work was relatively small scale and focussed on individual items or collections, but a step change came with projects to digitise Welsh journals and newspapers.

Much of the experienced gained in those two projects has guided work on the digitisation of First World War material, but  the wider variety of material, including newspapers, archives, manuscripts, periodicals, images, sound and audiovisual files in this project means that adaptations have had to be made to our workflows. While printed material is fairly uniform, archives are not, and our photographic collections which are being digitised as part of this project also present some interesting questions. From the photographic collection we are digitising individual prints, lantern slides and photographs in bound albums, and from the archival collections come diaries, handwritten letters, manuscripts and partially printed items. Our workflows need to be able to handle this variety, while still maintaining throughput.

As a starting point, staff involved in the digitisation process, the ICT and systems sections, Readers’ Services, conservation and curatorial staff have been meeting to set out guidelines on how the items need to be processed. We have developed a guidance document for handling archival material, have begun the process for photographic material and will start on manuscript material next week.

Once the guidelines have been agreed, the metadata team can begin preparing collections for digitising by numbering leaves and creating tracking documents for the scanning team to use. The guidelines have also highlighted that modifications will be needed to the library’s digitisation tracking software to handle the more complex archival structure.

This isn’t a quick process, but it’s essential to the digitisation project. Having good, consistent, reliable and medium appropriate metadata is essential to be enable identification, preservation and discovery of the material.

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