Organising Archive Images


Extract from a July 1973 letter to Kelvin White of the UK Foreign Office outlining efforts by various intermediaries to secure British support for a secret meeting between IRA and UDA leaders. One of these messages was conveyed by the UDA through Derry-based Quaker Will Warren and prominent former British General Sir John Hackett. The document is in Foreign and Commonwealth Office file FCO 87/178 in the UK National Archives.

Researchers who work with historical archives can now take thousands of photographs of archival documents in the space of a few days but this provides us with new challenges. It is not easy to organise these images effectively and to keep track of what we have. It’s difficult too to quickly find information in these huge collections given that we can’t search the text in these images, unless we convert them to searchable text using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software. Stanford University’s Tooling up for Digital Humanities website provides some suggestions on organising and annotating these images but it seems clear that there is no consensus yet on best practice. While many scholars are using image software such as iPhoto to store and organise archive documents I find there are advantages to storing them in regular folders and opening multiple files together in a PDF viewer – in my case Preview on the Mac. I can then scroll through the images much more quickly and easily than I can in iPhoto. The Tooling Up site also provides information on the latest digital techniques for textual analysis in the humanities.

About niallodoc

Senior Lecturer in the School of Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway
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