Digitisation of a rare book at TownsWeb Archiving's studio

Digitisation Service

TownsWeb Archiving’s digitisation services offer expert scanning and indexing of old, rare, precious and fragile items.

Primarily we handle the digitisation (or digitization) of cultural heritage collections held by public and private archives, cemeteries, libraries and museums. But across our many years in digitisation we have also scanned all manner of more unusual collections – from wallpaper samples and x-ray scans, to Victorian surgical drawings and bound illuminated manuscript books from the 15th century.

Our suite of specialist overhead planetary scanning equipment allows us to digitise:
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Delicate digitisation service for fragile archives & collections

Our aim has always been to provide a digitisation service that delivers outstanding image capture quality, together with absolute care for the special collections that we are entrusted with. And we have achieved this over the course of 300+ projects with some of the most culturally significant heritage collections in the UK, we know this because our customers tell us in their testimonials.

Media we digitise

We are able to digitise all manner of two dimensional media formats. This includes paper items from postage stamp size, up to A0+: such as photographs, maps, books, postcards, diaries, magazines and newspapers. We are also able to digitise film in the form of 35mm slides and film strips, microfilm, and microfiche; as well as scanning collodion wet and gelatine dry glass plate negatives.

Vintage photographs to be digitised Books ready for digitisation

Why digitise your collections?

One of the biggest challenges that holders of heritage collections, and in particular archivists, face is the need to balance the preservation of their materials and protecting them from harm, with the need to provide access to the valuable information that they contain. Digitisation can be the answer…

Digitisation of old, fragile, and precious collections offers two main benefits – preservation and improved access.

Firstly, digitising items preserves their content in digital form, so that, should the item ever be lost or destroyed, the valuable information it contains isn’t lost. Digitisation also contributes to the preservation of the item by allowing its information to be accessed without physically handling it – extending the items life by reducing wear on the precious original.

Secondly, digitising heritage materials can greatly improve access to their content, as in digital form they can be made available via computers, tablets and even mobile phones online. This can completely remove the need to wrestle with often large and heavy volumes, or sift through index cards, to locate a particular record or image.

Accessing digitised collections is also much faster than physical ones. Metadata (data about the image) stored against each image in digital collections makes them infinitely more searchable – allowing them to be searched against using keywords or via categories in an instant.

What’s more, handwritten content from collections that pre-date the typewriter and printing press can be very difficult and slow to read. Digitising this written content through transcription, converting it to digital text, makes it far more legible and easier to browse.

State of the art digitisation service

The low-stress, flat bed planetary scanning equipment that we use is specially designed to fully support and place the absolute minimum pressure on the materials being digitised. In addition to sympathetic cradles, it utilises optimised LED lighting, which produces far less heat and infra-red energy than incandescent light sources – mitigating the risk of heat damaging the precious materials being scanned.

Our equipment also features industry-leading image capture devices capable of capturing images up to a very high resolution with crystal clarity.

Robotic Book Scanner Qidenus Robotic Book Scan Qidenus Robotic Book Scan

Expert image capture technicians

Our digitisation technicians are comprehensively trained in the safe handling of fragile and precious archival items, and frequently digitise materials as delicate as 500 year old manuscripts and 19th century glass plate negatives. A gentle “white gloves” approach is employed at all times to ensure materials are treated with the utmost care. In addition, our accredited technicians are BTEC level qualified in Digital Image Capture.

Scanning output formats and resolution

No two heritage digitisation projects are the same, so with this in mind we tailor the resolution and file formats of the digital outputs we produce to meet the goals of each project we undertake.

We initially capture to RAW format and are able to capture in full colour or greyscale. From this original image we are then able to produce outputs in TIFF, JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, BMP and Adobe PDF file formats, either uncompressed or with compression applied.

As a standard we would normally digitise collections to produce outputs of high resolution uncompressed RGB Baseline master TIFF images, alongside lower resolution compressed surrogate JPEG files.

The resolution to which we capture varies dependent on the medium being digitised and the goals of the project. However, as a guide, we would ordinarily capture photographs at 600ppi (pixels per inch), 35mm slides at a minimum of 1200ppi, and books and other medium format items at 300ppi.

On- and off-site digitisation service

We digitise most of our clients’ collections at our digitisation studio in Northamptonshire, using our own secure GPS-tracked vehicles and staff to collect the materials from (and return them to) the clients premises.

However, we understand that some collections are simply too fragile and precious to move without incurring a significant risk of harm coming to them. For this reason we also offer an on-site digitisation service, where our technicians will travel to your premises with our scanning equipment and digitise your materials on location.

Further information about our digitisation service

To find out more about our digitisation services or to ask any questions that aren’t answered above, please contact us.