Case Study: RNLI
The Lifeboat has been in production for over 150 years and the RNLI has a complete archive of original journals going right back to the first issue in 1852. This archive is stored at the charity's Headquarters in Poole, Dorset, and has always been available to be viewed by historians, lifeboat enthusiasts or anyone with an interest in the history of this great Institution.
But not everyone can make the journey to Poole and old documents are fragile – the archive’s custodians became increasingly concerned about _the delicate state of some of the issues. So the RNLI turned to modern technology to help.
In 2006, the RNLI engaged SDS Heritage to convert its journals into digital format, and to make them available on a set of fully searchable CD-ROMs and DVDs.
The RNLI set out the key objectives that it wanted the project to achieve:
to increase accessibility to this resource by making every issue available in a compact and affordable format to provide powerful and flexible search facilities to enable rapid access to the information to protect and secure the archive from potential damage, loss and fire
The project was broken down into key stages:
Collection and Scanning
The bound volumes were collected and scanned page by page using a variety of specialist scanners. A number of issues included large fold-out wreck charts which required special care and attention. After scanning, each of the files were processed using OCR (text-reading) software.
Creating the PDFs
Next, each page layout was digitally standardized, cleaned and centered to ensure continuity throughout, and the resultant files saved as standard Adobe PDFs. Interactive contents and bookmarks were added to each file, enabling the user to quickly move between articles.
Creating the Database
Categories were created to index each record and article, with each of the scanned images and text from every issue allocated specific criteria (with keyword searches also available). Some bonus material was also added, including an interactive map, which enables users to click on any lifeboat station or lifeguard unit, and view all of the rescues from that location that are recorded within the archive.
Design and Testing
Finally, the archive was given an attractive and easy to use design, and extensive tests were run to ensure everything works as it should. The project was successfully completed in July 2008. The electronic resource covers over 570 issues, including 36 within the war years.