A Lanchester Archive team member looking at plans for the exhibition space.

Happy World Digital Preservation Day! Today a huge community of data creators, curators and consumers comes together to celebrate the importance of digital preservation for a vast number of sectors including industry, commerce, government, medicine, art, and of course heritage. Digitising materials opens up incredible opportunities for preservation and accessibility, and today is all about celebrating that.

Digitising the materials on Frederick Lanchester held by Coventry University Library was a crucial part of the Heritage Lottery funded Lanchester Interactive Archive project. Only a couple of years ago, Lanchester enthusiasts and curious visitors had to book an appointment to visit and consult the Lanchester Archive. Today, the Archive is only a click away – and did we mention it can be consulted for free?

We thought we’d take this opportunity to tell you a bit about the process of digitising the Lanchester Archive, so follow us into the vaults…

First, the actual contents of the Archive had to be sorted, catalogued and given a reference number. Some material had been listed in the past by librarians, and these lists had to be edited to meet archival standards. Some of the items also needed conservation work to make sure they were in good condition for the digitisation process.

The digitisation and conservation work was carried out by The National Archives, using specialist equipment to scan blueprints, paper-based documents (correspondence, notebooks and sketchbooks), and images (like photographs, negatives and glass plates).

Project staff made sure that material was labelled with the reference numbers so that The National Archives could create the right file names for the digital images. Quality assurance checks were made throughout this process to make sure everything was going according to plan, and when everything was ready, the digitised materials were uploaded to the Lanchester Interactive Archive website – where you can see it now!

As you will know, the mission of the Lanchester Interactive Archive is to preserve and promote the Lanchester legacy as much as possible. Therefore, it was important to us that the archive material held at Coventry University is available to everyone. Of course opening up physical archives to the public has several risks for the archives themselves – documents can be very fragile and regular handling (not to mention mishandling!) can accelerate the deterioration process. It’s for this reason that digitisation represents the ideal solution in terms of accessibility, accuracy of representation, and conservation, and it’s one of the aspects of the project of which we are most proud.

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