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Patterns For The Future – Digitising ceramic patterns and designs for Royal Doulton Minton Archives

The Minton archive, owned by parent company Royal Doulton, is an invaluable resource for the history of the company and its artistic heritage.

Royal Doulton Minton ArchivesThe increasing popularity of antiques programmes on TV, and the collectors’ market for china, has created a great demand for information about original patterns and designs held in the archive. To make original and extremely valuable archive material more accessible, the Archive Centre decided to undertake a programme of digitisation of original artwork, designs, shape and pattern books, along with other archive documents relating to the company’s history.

TownsWeb Archiving, in consultation with archivist Les Smith and his staff, produced an initial report to assess the timescale, processes and costs for the digitisation programme, which in the end became a nine month onsite project.

A Unique Archive

The unique archive is immense, with more than a million individual pieces on paper, card, canvas, cloth and in bound volumes, covering original designs, watercolours, manuscripts and photographs. Extreme care was needed in the handling of such valuable material. TownsWeb staff worked permanently on site at Royal Doulton with portable scanning equipment. A simple form of indexing was devised, linking a unique reference number for each item to a structured directory. The cataloguing of the images was a relatively lengthy process, requiring input from archive staff to capture all the relevant detail to allow retrieval by artist, period and, for a lot of unsigned work, the completion of free text fields to capture descriptions such as ‘red roses’, ‘man on horseback’ etc.

TownsWeb supplied its TWA PastView software package to allow staff to retrieve and view images and provide a more rapid and efficient service for anyone needing to access historical design and pattern information. There are plans to make the system available to licensees and members of the public in the future. By making the archive more accessible, the company has created new opportunities for revenue.

‘The Minton archive embraces 200 years of evolving ceramic design that we felt should be preserved and recorded digitally. The TownsWeb Archiving team have produced an outstanding digitised record of this archive in a thoroughly professional and timely manner, enabling access for all areas of the business including the company’s team of designers, who particularly value the unlimited use without the danger of damage to the original irreplaceable original items.’

Les Smith, Archivist, Royal Doulton

This project also featured in BAC magazine, read more here: TownsWeb feature in BAC magazine

TownsWeb Archiving Ltd can be contacted on 01536 713834 or via email at [email protected].