Digitisation and Outreach of Local Historical Archives

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Rasmus Brask Lauritsen
4. term, Interactive Digital Media, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis is about digitisation and online outreach among archives of local history in Denmark. The archives collections contain a substantial and often unique part of the cultural heritage on a local level. They contain documents, photographs and other types of records of handed in over the years by private individuals and organisations. The content of the archives is an important source for citizens and researchers, therefore digitisation and providing access is crucial in order of the archives to play their role in this day and age. Some of the archives are large with several full time employees, while other are small and run by local volunteers, and they of course have an corresponding difference in budget size.

The thesis is an attempt to give an overview on the archives process of digitisation of their archival collections. Further it explores the archives outreach on the internet, in order to classify the forms of outreach used. These investigations into the work processes of the archives are carried out with the purpose of identifying issues slowing down the process. For the issues that are identified solutions will be suggested.

The thesis consists of an analysis based on a survey among the archives, and a field study of the websites of the archives who answered the survey. This survey resulted in 135 replies (28 % of the inquired), from a wide variety of archives, in terms of both assignments and budget size. The analysis deals with both digitisation and outreach of the archives, and includes both the answers from the survey and the field study. Afterwards the results of the analysis are discussed. The discussion includes organisational issues, the digitisation efforts and their outreach effort. And finally a conclusion is given, and they are put into perspective with suggestions of further research.

The analysis shows that more than 79 % of the archives have digitisation of the collection as a part of their routines. Of these the majority uses more than half of their total time used on handling the collection. However there are archives who do not digitise, who explains it with limited personnel, budget or technical knowledge. Only one of the archives declares that they don’t want to digitise.
With regard to the outreach of the archives the survey shows that the most archives uses some time on online outreach. The vast majority expect to use more time on their online outreach in the future. With regard to their current use, the result was not impressing. Overall 74 % of the archives have some sort of online outreach, however only 37 % gives the citizens online access to the digitised parts of their collection, while only 20 % of the archives use has outreach with some degree of user involvement on their online sites. Examples of user involvement include interactive elements, communication between users and user participation in the creation of metadata for the archives documents.

The suggestions for improvements of the archives, in order to increase the speed of the digitisation, include more use of user involvement in relations to generating metadata for documents, in order to improve the textual search capability in the collection. Further it is recommended that archives on a local level specialises in digitisation of different kinds of media, thereby helping each other digitise the collections, since the equipment is expensive and the digitisation processes takes time to master. Alternatively the equipment may be bought on a regional level, and then borrowed for a limited time by the different archives, in order to limit the economic expense.

In relation to suggestions for better online outreach it is recommended the archives to develop scripts to use on websites which improves the access to the collections, e.g. through visual exploration instead of textual search. Further it is recommended that they get a more experimental approach to new forms of online outreach.

An area which needs further investigation is the actual status of the digitisation process, how large are the collections, and how much is digitised. Further user participation in the digitisation process is an interesting topic because of the possibilities it potentially gives the archives.
Publication date1 Aug 2011
Number of pages75
ID: 54837404