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by David Portman

Digitally preserving local history with Dorset History Centre

I recently caught up with Cassandra Pickavance, Archives Service Officer (Digital Preservation) with the Dorset History Centre, who told me all about this fascinating initiative.

November 16, 2017

Dorset History Centre (DHC), a valued Preservica customer responsible for archiving historical material from within Dorset’s county borders, has recently launched a fundraising campaign to digitally preserve the work of the late local photographer Graham Herbert.

I recently caught up with Cassandra Pickavance, Archives Service Officer (Digital Preservation) with the Dorset History Centre, who told me all about this fascinating initiative.

Graham’s photos provide an evocative glimpse into 20th century life in the area

The photos include everything from working crews in the ports of Dorset to Weymouth’s local ‘Bond Girl’. However, the physical media on which they are stored are at risk of deterioration and being lost forever.

The hope is now that by using Preservica’s cloud-based preservation capabilities, the DHC will be able to keep digitised master copies of the photographs accessible for decades to come.

Cassandra has responsibility for preserving non-traditional media, including the extensive photographic collections the centre contains, she commented, “The acetate negatives of Graham’s photos are unfortunately suffering from ‘vinegar syndrome’. This is an irreversible process whereby chemicals within the negatives cause them to bubble and distort over time. Sadly, eventually they’ll become unrecognisable."

“Raising money to digitise these fantastic photos through our crowdfunding campaign will give us the best chance to preserve them for future generations. Preservica’s cloud-based service will enable us to maintain access and readability to these cultural assets over the next 20, 30 years or more.”

The collections at DHC date back to the year 985 and fill 8 miles of shelves

Anyone can view the records in their searchroom and half a million pages of digitised records are available to view online. Cassandra and her team are committed to raising the £8000 required to digitise more of Herbert’s collection, which is one of the largest in the centre, having previously won grants to save parts of it.

Herbert was also the first professional photographer used by long-running local paper the Dorset Echo, and Dorset History Centre has more than 7000 packets of negatives covering 1953-83. If you've been touched by this story then please donate to the campaign using this link - Donate to save Herberts Weymouth

Rewards on offer range from specially printed postcards, to a VIP tour of Dorset History Centre with the Country Archivist. And you can also get involved on social media, using the hashtag: #saveherbertsweymouth

Follow the DHC, @DorsetArchives and Preservica @Preservica for the latest digital preservation news and real world projects as we approach International Digital Preservation Day on 30th November.