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Tuesday, May 30 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Electronic Media) The Role of Conservation Treatment in a Mass-Digitisation Program

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Digitisation programs are frequently aimed at reducing the need for physical access to collection material, with the result that fewer resources are expended on physical preservation. This paper discusses the benefits of a mass-digitisation program where resources are provided for the conservation treatment of collections, in some cases, material that would otherwise not have received attention at this stage, thus reducing the need for more interventive treatment later.

In 2012 the State Library of New South Wales, Australia (SLNSW) was awarded an AU$62.3M state government grant to undertake a 10-year program of mass-digitisation, which aims to create 20 million digital objects.

This year, the Digital Excellence Program is aiming to digitise 1.9 million items from across 33 collections using both onsite and offsite digitisers. Material formats vary widely and include books, manuscript papers, maps and plans, serials, pamphlets, newspapers, photographs and negatives, cassette, reel-to-reel and DAT tapes, film, coins, medals, oil paintings, drawings and watercolours.

Mass-digitisation programs of this scale and with this variety of material formats are not common, so it is exciting to be able to work on this program, devising innovative methods of approaching mass-treatment of SLNSW’s cultural heritage collections. Initial project scoping identified that 22 of the collections require input from Collection Care – over 215,000 pages of treatment and 10,500 artefacts requiring packing for offsite digitisation.

While SLNSW’s Collection Care department is large, only three conservators are allocated to the digitisation program. With such a vast quantity of material, and of varied formats, requiring attention, how does Collection Care design effective preservation approaches to suit available resources of time, space, staff and materials?

Innovative strategies are required to realise a program of this scale. The Collection Care team works as part of a larger digitisation project team, which draws on the expertise of specialists from other departments, such as curators, archivists, librarians and digitisation specialists, as well as the support of project managers and all levels of library management. In this way judicious collection selection is undertaken, taking into account collection condition information, as well as considerations of collection rarity, value and level of use.

Once collections are chosen, the second phase of the project is to determine the resources required. Collection surveys are conducted to determine the extent of stabilisation treatment required in order to image the items, and therefore the required resources of space, time, staff and materials.

In order to handle these mass-treatment programs, the Collection Care team have developed innovative preservation platforms to reduce the extent of interventive treatments. In three brief project case studies, different aspects will be explored, including using cataloguing processes to gather condition information on an audio collection; developing time efficient treatment methods to stabilise large paper-based collections; and the importance of rehousing to improve the long-term preservation of a numismatic collection.

Through the practical design and successful implementation of ethical conservation treatments, SLNSW is prolonging the lifetime of their cultural heritage collections, while simultaneously providing access through mass-digitisation, providing benefits well into the future.

Speaker(s)
avatar for Felicity Corkill, [PA]

Felicity Corkill, [PA]

Senior Conservator, Digitisation, State Library of NSW
Felicity Corkill is the Senior Conservator, Digitisation at the State Library of NSW in Sydney, Australia. She coordinates preservation planning and oversees the conservation treatment of collections for the Library’s mass-digitisation program. She has been a conservator and cons... Read More →


Tuesday May 30, 2017 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Comiskey Concourse Level, West Tower

Attendees (103)