Digitising history

A local raised the issue of digitising our precious records at the recent Connecting With Council meeting in Allora on 6 October.

By Dominique Tassell

A local raised the issue of digitising our precious records at the recent Connecting With Council meeting in Allora on 6 October.

Karen McKechnie spoke at the meeting about the possibility of Southern Downs Regional Council facilitating the digitisation of records held by communities such as Allora.

She stated that Council has the equipment to do these things, as shown in the work done by Stanthorpe Library, and many locals would prefer to digitise records locally rather than send them off to the cities.

Karen suggested that the Council could offer a service to community groups who would like to digitise their archived records.

She later approached the Councillors with a proposal regarding a service they could provide to local community groups to help them preserve their historical records.

She asked if the Council Records Department have digitisation equipment which could be used by the council staff to offer a digital copying service to cultural or sporting organisations.

Karen says this could be used to create archival copies of their records, such as minutes of meetings, catalogues, newsletters, photographs, ephemeral material.

Records can currently be sent to the Oxley Library or Queensland State Archives in Brisbane for storage, however many locals may not be comfortable sending their records off this way.

Karen says that if the records are kept locally, it would be helpful if the Council could offer a digitisation service as they already have trained staff.

“Community groups may wish to bring their records to the dedicated Council facility where trained staff can photograph items for microfilm and digitisation, or scanning,” she says.

“I understand that some old records are printed in large, bound journals and these folios would need to be photographed rather than scanned.

“Broadsheet newspapers of the past are a vital record of our local history and need to be digitised,” Karen says. “Particularly if those newspapers are not stored in fire, flood, vermin-proof and temperature controlled buildings.”

“The preservation of local history is important for many people who are immersed in Australian history research.”

A Council spokesperson stated that “Council was successful about 12 months ago in securing funding for cameras and other peripheries to assist with digitising some of its material”.

“Council has also received similar questions following last week’s meeting in Allora, however the questions tendered to seek Council assistance (particularly with staff) to complete the task or to scan newspapers.

“Both the equipment and the use of staff resources would come at a cost, which Council currently does not have the budget for. In addition, the equipment that the libraries currently use is an A4 scanner which generally is not sufficient to scan broad sheet newspapers.

“As an alternative, community groups are encouraged to make applications through Council’s Community Grants program for funding to acquire digitizing equipment which would make groups self sufficient and independent to complete their tasks.”