Thursday, 21 November 2013

Introducing... Our Digitisation Team

Continuing our 'Introducing...' feature to show you the wide variety of work undertaken by our service, today we bring you a piece from our Digitisation Team:




If you were to start a tour at the very top of the Hive, just beneath the golden parapets, and descend one level, then another, and another, and then just one more, you would finally reach a labyrinthine world of long corridors and mysterious workspaces, library storage areas, environmentally controlled strongrooms and specialist archival and archaeological offices, populated by a small swarm of workers mostly hidden away from those enjoying the public services above yet vital to the daily operation of the building.





















Deep inside this labyrinth, expertly sited near the Conservation room and the staff toilets, sits one such mysterious workspace known simply as Room 69, or The Darkroom. This room could easily be missed on your tour for there are no inner glass walls to peer through at the workings inside that would reveal its nature nor are there any outer windows. Indeed, natural daylight is banished from this space as such a natural luxury would only interfere with the delicate work being performed within its depths.

For Room 69 is a place where only semi-darkness and controlled artificial light are welcome and where a strange alchemy is practised daily in the transformation of base but precious physical archives into digital and filmic gold.  It matters not the original form of these archives. Whether paper or vellum, glass plate or film, magnetic audio tape or photographic print, all can be digitally reproduced and some even microfilmed. Yes, the ancient and almost forgotten art of loading film into a camera and photographing things with it is one still well practised within this particular room and, for many of the more traditional guardians of the archives especially, microfilm still provides the most reliable medium when surrogates are needed.


But, while microfilm is reliable, digital is dynamic and a digital surrogate is one that truly liberates the original from its often delicate and restrictive body not only to preserve but also to show, to be made accessible to a potentially world-wide audience of scholars and researchers of every hue.  In Room 69, this liberation is made possible by the use of two powerful and wondrous medium-format camera systems, equipped with top-notch lenses, film and high-end digital capture devices and supported by a vast array of subsidiary digitisation equipment including bespoke computers and specialist software all designed specifically for archival photography.

But such machines cannot perform alone and, although they may be pallid through lack of exposure to daylight, two troglodytes toil tirelessly within the windowless walls of Room 69 in the quest to preserve and to open up access to more and more archives through the means of filmic and digital photography.  


One of these is young, happy to be seen publicising the service and brimming with ideas on how the brave new digital world of social media and the internet can be used to open up archives to all. The other is older, steeped in old-school photography and enthused by the super quality and limitless potential of digitisation, but who shuns publicity to such an extent that there are some who doubt his very existence.
Yet exist he does, he is known as John, and his younger colleague, Jonathan. With years of experience, an understanding of and an empathy with precious archival materials, and more skills than you can shake a stick at,  this team of two have acquired a reputation for providing a highly-skilled and professional  archival photography service to individuals and organisations alike. So, do you need the services of Room 69?
The Digitisation Team is available to undertake work from external customers, both large and small. If you would like more details, a discussion or a quote please contact the Digitisation Team  at jfrance@worcestershire.gov.uk

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