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Microfilm digitisation – Preserving a precious WW1 Roll of Honour

Digitised microfilm reels

With the World War One centenary fast approaching, microfilm digitisation by TownsWeb Archiving offered a Council in West Yorkshire the perfect way to share their Roll of Honour collection online and pay tribute to the soldiers from their area who served in the conflict.

Remembering the Great War’s heroes

The Council had been considering digitising the 35mm microfilm reels (pictured, right) containing their historic WW1 Roll of Honour for some time.

The Roll of Honour contains an almost complete record of the soldiers from the Council’s area that served during the Great War from 1914-18, including over 36,000 individual entries. The historic data featured in the records includes each soldier’s forename, surname, address, date of enlistment, date of death, rank and regiment.

The Council in West Yorkshire contacted TownsWeb regarding the historic digitisation project in May 2013 following a recommendation from another regional council. After an initial consultation with TownsWeb’s Managing Director, Paul Sugden, a representative from the Council was happy to commence the project.

Aims of the microfilm digitisation project

“Primarily we wanted the Roll of Honour scanned to digital format to make it more accessible to the public by hosting it on the web, as part of our commemorative contribution to the World War One centenary” said the Council representative, explaining the motives behind the digitisation.

“Another advantage of digitising the microfilm reels was that the increased accessibility afforded by the digital files mitigated future wear and tear on the delicate original bound volumes, which at that time had to be hauled out every time a member of the public wanted to search for a record.”

Scanning the microfilm reelsSample scan from Bradford City's Roll of Honour

Using specialist equipment TownsWeb were able to scan the 35mm microfilm records to produce 1083 high resolution digital TIFF files. The microfilm reels were scanned, quality assurance checks carried out and the final images delivered on an external hard drive to the client; all within two weeks.

Results of the microfilm digitisation

Reflecting on the project, the Council representative said “TownsWeb were first rate. They took care of the unique original materials, and the turnaround time and quality of the digital images was outstanding.”

They continued “I’ve wanted the Roll of Honour available in digital format for over a decade and it’s fantastic to finally have that. We’re now developing a bespoke website to host the collection online in preparation for the centenary next year.”

If you’re considering a microfilm digitisation project, or digitising other historic World War One archives or photographic collections, contact us for a free consultation.