Introducing the Mining the Seams Project

Greetings from the Warwickshire half of the Mining the Seams project team! Laura is our Project Archivist, and Katie and Beck  are our Project Assistants. Katie and Beck have just finished their first few weeks on the project. Here are their experiences so far, which they fondly summarised as ‘bedsocks and toolkits’…

Hey jig-a-jig

So far, we have been focusing on a set of Compensation Registers. These recorded ongoing compensation payments for illness or injury caused by working the mines. We’re going to digitise them all so that they can be transcribed by remote volunteers. We honestly didn’t expect to be using power tools on our first week at the archive, but our first task was to build a jig to help us take consistent photos. Time to crack open the toolkit!

Because some of the Compensation Registers are more recent, we need to redact the ‘name’ column for data protection reasons. The way to do this (while still keeping a copy of the original uncensored image) is to take pictures with the relevant column lined up in the exact same place every time. Then we run a script to black out a certain area of every image. We set up guidelines on the jig and on the camera software, which enable us to take precisely aligned images, even when the original pages are wonky!

‘Disemboweling books’

All the volumes are covered in dust and dirt, so the next job was to clean them up so that we can take photos where the information is visible. The volumes are held together with metal bindings which have become stuck together with rust and age. To get these apart, we had to get the toolkit out again, this time for pliers, hammers and a little bit of brute force! * Then followed a lot of brushing, sponging and page unfolding to make sure the numbers are clear to read. We’ve managed to do 10 out of 26 so far.

Making ourselves at home

When it comes to actually digitising the volumes, we have to have the pages nearly at floor level and the camera near the ceiling to fit them all in the image. This means lot of sitting and kneeling on the floor to turn the pages, so we decided we needed to make things a bit more comfy. That’s when we had a brilliant idea: bedsocks! We’ve also laid out a cushion to sit on and now the digi-suite is positively cosy. Again, we’re already ahead of schedule, having digitised 10 volumes in 2 weeks.

November’s Highlights Reel

  • Discovering a new mascot, ‘Wilson’, who lives between the pages. Digitising for hours on end can do funny things to you…
  • Listening to Harry Potter audiobooks while we work in the digi suite. They’ve just rescued Norbert the Dragon!
  • Taking our team selfie with Chambearlin the Bear using the brand spanking new 100 megapixel camera