A royal archive preserved for posterity, shared with the world

Back in 2011 Zeutschel OS12000 scanners were used by Capita to scan 44,000 pages of Queen Victoria’s Journals on-site and had to be web-ready within 14 weeks!

Summary

Queen Victoria kept a journal from the age of 13 until her death in 1901. Her writings chronicled life in the royal household and shed light on the attitudes, events and political landscape of the time. As such they represent valuable insight into the political and social history of 19th century Britain.

In 2011, a unique project saw Capita partnering with online publisher ProQuest to work with the Royal Archives and the Bodleian Libraries to share the journals with the world by putting their contents online via a dedicated website – www.queenvictoriasjournals.org

Pam Clark, Senior Archivist at the Royal Archives, explained the objective; “The plan was for the website to digitise as high-resolution colour images, every page of the surviving volumes of the Journals, along with separate photographs of the many illustrations and inserts within the pages. The journals are obviously valuable historical documents and very careful handling was required for the scanning of the pages.”

The Solution

Global information leader ProQuest recommended that Capita be brought in to undertake the highly sensitive scanning work on-site using one of Zeutschel’s OS12000 Scanners.

To add to the challenges presented by sensitively scanning and digitising around 44,000 valuable, multi-format printed materials before making them available to search and view online, there were four versions of the journals, and a 14 week deadline. Security issues also required that all scanning be done on-site, some of it in a room at the top of a long, narrow staircase in the Round Tower at Windsor Castle!

■ Scanning of the volumes was largely done chronologically. “This was not as easy as it sounds because certain volumes were in use, so Capita had to break the sequence and come back to these once they became available,” explained Pam Clark.

■ As there are many insertions and illustrations in the journals, this made scanning and indexing complicated. In addition, some volumes are very tightly bound, requiring extra care when scanning.

■ The scanning adhered to very strict quality control procedures, and preservation staff checked pagination and every image for accuracy and quality.

■ The scanned images were returned as full colour, uncompressed TIFF images. Metadata was applied to each page / volume, including the volume number and code, the file name associated with each image, the page number, the date and location of Queen Victoria whilst writing the diary entry.

■ Upon receiving the digitised files, ProQuest worked closely with the Royal Archives and the Bodleian Libraries to integrate them into the new website, and to share them with the world.

The benefits

This partnership delivered a range of benefits to the Royal Archives, ProQuest and the Bodleian Libraries including:

■ Conserving the originals with access to the collection now online, the fragile originals will endure less physical exposure, which helps minimise the risk of damage and deterioration.

■ Improved reputation by making access to its collections easier, the Royal Archives and the Bodleian Libraries are enhancing their reputation for being the responsible archivists of many of the world’s most precious documents.

Key outcomes

■ 44,000 pages of Queen Victoria’s journals scanned and now available to search and view online

■ Secure on-site scanning involving specialist equipment, staff and processes

■ Fragile originals handled sensitively and copied accurately

■ Full QA procedures ensured high quality results