The Royal Navy’s Naval Historical Branch (NHB) have in their possession one of only two original copies of the World War 2 Admiralty Diary. The other copy is at the National Archives, London and as yet, despite the fragile nature of the 204 volumes neither have been digitised. The only way to access either copy was to visit in person. We are now pleased to announce that the digitised diaries are available to view online at the Royal Navy Strategic Studies Centre webpage.
These diaries offer a fascinating daily insight into the Royal Navy actions and events during World War 2. They are an invaluable resource to the MOD, overseas government departments, academics, researchers, authors and genealogists and this will only increase once they are available electronically. The release on the internet will heighten the MOD and the Royal Navy’s profile in the public domain. Making this document available to the general public could be considered similar in cachet to the public release of the Mormon Latter-Day Saints Church records.
Reason’s to Digitise
The business reasons for digitalising the Diary are to:
- Improve the conservation of this important document, through a large reduction in physical handling.
- Improve productivity through reducing the staff time required to consult the document.
- Improve assurance in the information produced through the high quality of the electronic search facility.
After a thorough market research investigation of the commercial companies who offer such a service Genus was selected as the UK company with the pedigree, knowledge, equipment, storage facilities and commitment to undertake the task.
The Digitisation Process
Content was collected from the Naval Historical Branch, Portsmouth, in one of our non-signwritten vans which was fully fuelled to travel directly from Portsmouth to Nuneaton. Upon arrival at Genus, the content was unloaded into the secure loading area and immediately audited and a manifest produced. From this manifest, our Goobi workflow tool was populated with jobs which would then track the entire project form start to end. The archive was then transferred to our climate controlled secure storage area within the Genus studios.
The volumes were inspected by our skilled team and our SMA A2 inverted flatbed scanner with integral book cradle was selected as the most appropriate item of equipment for capture. Although the SMA will capture A2 documents at up to 600ppi optical resolution, 300ppi at original size gave sufficient quality for the desired outputs. The SMA scanner is fully colour profiled so outputting the uncompressed Tiff files within the RGB colourspace was easily achieved.
After capture, the images were ingested into Goobi where the structure of the files was checked to ensure they complied with the specifications. In addition to tracking the individual jobs through production, Goobi ensures consistent image output by automatically cropping and deskewing the images, recognising the book spine, splitting pages and applying a specified border. The benefit of this is that all images are very regular and have a constant appearance. Upon acceptance of the image processing, Goobi then outputs the files, names them according to specification and produces derivatives. All of this is fully visible to the client so they can track their project in real time.
The final deliverable was an uncompressed Tiff image as the archival master and a Pdf with OCR layer behind, making the near 70-year-old information fully searchable for future generations.
The 204-volume archive spans all theatres of the war and includes entries from almost 80 months of operations and contains in excess of 60,000 pages. It was successfully digitised within the allotted timeframe for this project and returned back to the NHB where it has been returned to long term safe storage. The content of the 204 volumes of the Admiralty Diary has been fully digitised by Genus. The content is still awaiting release onto the Royal Navy’s Naval Historical Branch (NHB) website. When it does become available to the public we will inform you so that you can see this amazing and unique part of history.
“In consultation with the Royal Navy Media and Communications team, we hope that the finished article will be made available to all free of charge via the Royal Navy website. This will be of immediate interest with the nation’s D-Day commemorations coming up in June 2019. Genus staff have been very accommodating during this lengthy process. Their understanding of the nature and rarity of the volumes helped immensely from the safe collection of all the volumes, subsequent handling and storage and, the digitised and OCR’d document that arrived on its own hard drive. Releasing valuable and rare documents from the clutches of their protective custodians is often difficult but the staff at Genus understood the misgivings of my colleagues and fears were put to rest.”
Christine Harper – Royal Navy Historical Branch
We would like to thank Christine Harper of The Royal Navy Historical Branch for her involvement in this project and her contribution to this article. To find out more about our digtisation services, please visit the webpage