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Looking back on the digital year

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14/03/2016

By | Digital Developments

2015 was another busy year for the Digitisation Programme at the Wellcome Library with a diverse range of material being made freely available online for our users. The programme has seen a move towards more automation with on average of over a million images being made available in our media viewer per month. So far we have ingested 20 million images into our digital repository Preservica for the whole digitisation programme.

Here are some of the highlights:

Chemist and Druggist was our first digitised journal, an extraordinary 150 years of articles, editorials and advertisements related to the pharmaceutical trade. The range of topics covered is impressive, everything from Aspirin to Zinc and many topics in between. Many issues are richly illustrated with pharmacy paraphernalia. These cover the diversity of 19th – 20th century approaches to health and treatment.

Electric hairbrushes

Electric hair brushes. Published: September 1859 in the Chemist and Druggist.

The issues were digitised by the Internet Archive and we harvested the content from the Internet Archive site into the Wellcome Library website. This represented a significant amount of data to be not only downloaded but arranged hierarchically and made searchable. The arrangement of the data was complex and involved harvesting both image and metadata files for such features as pagination and optical character recognition (OCR).

In 2015 the Mental healthcare digitisation project continued focusing on 20th century mental health care archives. The completion of the Mental After Care Association archive was one of the highlights of the year. The archive documents a period of over a hundred years of the care of those suffering from mental illness. The Association was founded in the late 19th century by the Rev. Henry Hawkins, the asylum hospital chaplain. His idea was to provide an alternative to the workhouse for those discharged from asylums where they would be offered a period of convalescence and all necessary assistance. His legacy lives on today and still benefits some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

We have been working in conjunction with six Library partners to digitise archives as part of the Mental Health theme – the Borthwick Institute for Archives, London Metropolitan Archives, Dumfries and Galloway Council Archives, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, the University of Glasgow Photographic Unit and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

drawing of 2 patients at Morningside Asylum.

Flora Manson – Portrait of Two Patients at Morningside Asylum, 1859. From the records of Crichton Royal Hospital, Library reference DGH1/7/3/1/55.

Each institution was given an account on the FTP server that we set up to upload digitised images to the Wellcome Library site. A new Goobi workflow was created that ‘watches’ for content on the FTP server, virus checks them, and uploads them to the digital library system – speeding up the ingest process considerably. We have so far made available over 650,000 images, with the aim to digitise at least 800,000.

The Medieval Manuscripts project contains some remarkable examples of works that have survived dating back to the 12th century. This project has the largest team of staff working with the metadata editing function in our workflow system, Goobi, which allows the mark-up of sections of a text. Nine members of staff from across the Library have worked on this aspect of the project over the past year – a good example of cross Library collaboration. Many of the medieval manuscripts contain a number of individual works that have been bound together into a single volume. Using Goobi we are able to create structure within these single volumes that allows a user to quickly navigate to the start of each of these individual works. An example from our most complex manuscript is this one (c.45):

greek manuscript

Greek Medical Texts. An example of many works bound in one manuscript in the media viewer. Library reference: Manuscript MS.MSL. 60.

There are now 118 manuscripts available in the media viewer containing c.35,000 images.

The UK Medical Heritage Library project is a big collaborative digitisation project and the cornerstone of our digital library in terms of quantity, with over 50,000 books and pamphlets dating from 1780 to 1914 now freely available online.

The Internet Archive digitisation team create more than just images when they digitise our content. They also create OCR files that we can use to make each text searchable, and a set of metadata that describes the structure of each work. All of this content can be harvested and processed by Goobi, and made available on the website, in a fully automated way – allowing us to ingest thousands of items every month.

The following people contributed to this post: Damian Nicoloau, Dave Thompson, Emma Hancox, Rada Vlatkovic, Toni Hardy and Christy Henshaw.

Rioghnach Ahern

Rioghnach Ahern

Rioghnach Ahern is the Digital Ingest Coordinator at the Wellcome Library.

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