Digitising over 80,000 slides

Hannah Keen joined the Museum in February 2016 as part of our Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Gateway Project, to undertake a fixed-term, year-long traineeship in the Collections team.

So what has she been getting up to?

“Over the past year I have been working with the Collections team on a number of different projects, but the main one has focused on digitising the Museum’s large collection of slides focusing on buildings and rural life.

There are an estimated 80,000 individual slides, spread over six collections. The largest of these (and the one I have spent the most time working on), is that of the Museum’s Founder, the late Dr J R Armstrong MBE. Armstrong’s collection reflects his passion and specialist interest in architecture, with a particular focus on timber-framed vernacular buildings from across the country and abroad.

The collection is held in a purpose-built archive store in the lower Downland Gridshell building. Armstrong organised his collection both by geographical location and the purpose of the building. Many of his slides document the Museum from its early beginnings through to the late 1980s.

Digitising the collections can bring great internal and external benefits. It can make them easier to access, rather than physically digging through thousands of slides, and ensure their preservation for the future.

For the project, we had to invent a way of digitising and documenting each slide. The process involves using a slide scanner to capture the image on each slide, then giving each one a unique reference number. Once captured, the images are uploaded to the Museum’s server and given the corresponding unique number. Finally, the images are added to a searchable database along with all the available information showing where the image was taken, when, and any other information.

Ultimately it is planned that the slide database will be available as a research tool for visitors to access and use. Once my traineeship is finished the Museum aims to continue the project digitising all the slides.

Of all the thousands of images I have seen so far (just over 25,000), my favourites have been those taken of the Museum. It has been fascinating to literally see the Museum spring to life and to see the Museum’s iconic historic buildings being erected on site. One in particular stands out to me, taken during the re-erection of the Market Hall from Titchfield in 1972. It shows the timber framing being lowered into place with someone perched somewhat precariously on the top. It has also been great to see visitors enjoying the Museum at various events and activity days over the years.”