Tag Archives: digitisation

Adventures in Digital

Hello, my name’s Rose and I’m a student at University College London, where I’m studying for an MA in Digital Humanities. As part of my course I spent ten weeks completing a placement at the BPMA, working with Martin, the Head of Digital, and Rachel, the Digital Media Manager.

2014 06 01

One of the main projects I worked on involved creating 3D models of items from the museum collections using photogrammetry, which I wrote about previously. I’d already learnt a little about the techniques involved, and this project gave me some valuable practical experience putting those lessons into action. It was amazing to be given access to photographic equipment and modelling software, and to have the freedom to experiment with different techniques. I benefitted a lot from the Digital Team’s photography knowledge, and I’m very proud of the models our experiments produced! Check them out here: https://sketchfab.com/postal

3D model of Stamp Snake. You can manipulate the model here: https://sketchfab.com/models/8c78b277cb0c4b2c9a3901970c94e2f4

3D model of Stamp Snake. You can manipulate the model here: https://sketchfab.com/models/8c78b277cb0c4b2c9a3901970c94e2f4

Another project involved digitisation work of a different kind, scanning historical maps and documents. A highlight was handling documents related to the sinking of the Titanic, and learning about the Post Office and Mail Room which were on board. This really made me appreciate how unique a resource the BPMA’s collections are.

I also digitised the negatives of maps depicting different postal routes; it was fun to take a small piece of film and digitise it to reveal the detailed and colourful illustrations it held. Digitisation can help preserve the museum and archive collections and make them more accessible; it’s exciting to think these images could help engage people in the story of Britain’s social and communications history.

Newly digitised map ready if needed for The Postal Museum!

Newly digitised map ready if needed for The Postal Museum!

I really enjoyed my time at the BPMA as I was given the opportunity to develop so many new skills and to work on more projects than I have space to mention! I’m interested in seeing how digital technologies continue to play a part in the BPMA’s work, and especially in the new Postal Museum. My placement gave me a valuable insight into life in the museums and heritage sector, and I’m extremely grateful to everyone I met who took the time to talk to me about their role.

Cataloguing Stamp Artwork – Phase II – 1975-1980

We have successfully applied for funding from the Aurelius Charitable Trust, the Leche Trust and the Charles Hayward Foundation to continue collection care, cataloguing and digitisation work of our collection of stamp artwork. Previous phases of the work have taken the management of the artwork from the reigns of George V to the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The second phase of work will see that cataloguing taken to 1980.

Before cataloguing and digitisation work is work carried a careful appraisal of the artwork is required to ascertain its condition, the accuracy of its caption and the security of its mount. This work is being undertaken by Richard West MBE, a respected philatelist and former editor of Stamp Magazine, in consultation with Douglas Muir, BPMA’s Curator of Philately, and Krystyna Koscia, our Conservator. This is a key process as the aim of the project is to preserve the artwork for future generations and it is reassuring to have Richard’s careful attention to detail deployed in this task.

Richard West MBE.

Richard West MBE.

Richard checks each sheet, writes and attaches the caption, before inserting it into a melinex sleeve (an inert, acid-free polyester) and placing it into an album. Richard has now completed albums up to 1979. This has been a pain-staking process and Richard has also been working backwards through the reign of Queen Elizabeth, making sure that captions written in the past are also accurate and re-writing them where necessary.

Stamp issues between 1975 and 1980 include Birth Bicentenary of JMW Turner (1975), Sailing (1975), 150th Anniversary of Public Railways (1975), Social Reformers (1976), Telephone Centenary (1976), British Cultural Traditions (1976), British Wildlife (1977), Horses (1978), Death Centenary of Sir Rowland Hill (1979) and London Landmarks (1980).

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Here Richard West captions and sleeves artwork relating to the 1979 stamp issue Dogs.

Anna Flood, one of our archivists, has been editing stamp artwork catalogue descriptions for the reigns of King George V and King George VI and is now preparing the artwork for Queen Elizabeth II for release in the near future.

Now that Richard has prepared a substantial number of artwork albums from 1975, Anna will create catalogue descriptions for these. Anna will use the captions written by Richard as the basis for each artwork description, noting particular features and the name of the contributing artist. This is time consuming work, requiring Anna to liaise between Richard and Douglas to ensure that the appropriate detail is captured.

Digitisation of the artwork will begin towards the end of the year as the cataloguing descriptions are formed. Again, digitisation is laborious work – artwork needs careful handling at this stage too, and the scanning equipment has to be calibrated to ensure that the resulting digital images match as closely the colour and detail of the original piece of artwork.

Finally, once the digital images have been processed, the masters carefully stored away and the digital surrogates attached to the relevant record, the descriptions will be proof-read first by Anna and Douglas, and then a second archivist will carry out a final read. This quality control minimises the risk of errors but, inevitably, they do occasionally slip through. The catalogue records, along with digital images of each piece of artwork, will be available for consultation in the first quarter of 2013.

Reaching milestones in our documentation and cataloguing work

At the end of February, we reached some significant milestones in the documentation work carried out on our museum and archive collections.

Submitted design (No. 15) by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons.

Stamp Artwork design for the Olympic Games 1948, submitted by G. Knipe of Harrison & Sons Oct. 1947. (POST 150/GVI/11/018) It was one of the five designs selected by the Council of Industrial Design and was held as a reserve for the 2 1/2d stamp. In preparing essays Harrisons were to be told "to make sure that the features of the jumper ... cannot be recognised."

The first milestone reached was the completion of an audit of material contained within the museum collection. What this means is that we have entry and location data for every object inherited by BPMA when it was formed in 2004 and for every object subsequently deposited with us. This includes objects held in our Freeling House repository and in our stores in Debden and at Christie’s.

Documentation of collections is a core part of any museum’s activity. Without details such as provenance, custodial history, physical condition and the terms and conditions relating to deposit, a museum cannot be assured of its responsibility and rights to preserve, display, digitise or even dispose (should the item not meet the museum’s collecting policy) of objects in its custody. Furthermore, precise information about an object’s location in our repository and stores means that we can carry out collections review work more efficiently and better prepare for our forthcoming move from our site here at Freeling House to the new postal museum.

This has been a significant amount of work and has taken seven years to complete. Very few museums have achieved a full audit of their holdings and it means that we can now concentrate our efforts in reviewing object collections, creating descriptive catalogues for the online catalogue and also plan our digitisation programmes accordingly. The completion of this work is due to the hard work and discipline of our museum cataloguers past and present, and we congratulate them all for doing such a great job!

Stamp Artwork, Olympic Games 1948, submitted on 29 July 1948 (POST 150/GVI/11/037)

The second milestone is that we’ve passed the 100,000 mark of records available to view on our online catalogue. We now have 100,703 records published. Our most recently published records include:
King George VI London Olympic Games 1948 stamp artwork
• Uniforms
• Handstamps
• Posters
Photographic stills from Post Office films, c.1969-1986
Finally, at the beginning of each year, we also open files that have been closed for 30 years. You can read in the blog by my colleague Gavin McGuffie how we process these. This year, we’ve opened approximately 100 files and the descriptions of these can be viewed via our online catalogue here.

Martin Devereux – Acting Catalogue Manager