Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Robotic scanner preserves the pages of history


A cutting-edge robotic scanner – the first in the UK and only the second in the world to be installed in a research library – is being used in an exciting initiative to create a vast digital library from original bound and printed historical documents.

The University of Southampton is using the unique precision-built equipment to scan rare parliamentary documents as part of a project that aims to put 300 years of history online. Southampton is leading a consortium of researchers and academic libraries to digitise all surviving 18th century parliamentary papers and bills. These will then be available in a comprehensive web archive for students of history all over the world to access directly from their home or office computers.

The £1.4 million project is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and is part of an ambitious £10 million digitisation programme made up of all UK further and higher education funding bodies and financed by the Government.

The volumes currently being scanned and digitised are drawn from the Ford Collection of British Official Publications at the University of Southampton Library and from Cambridge University Library. Eighteenth-century printed Parliamentary material is particularly important because the fire which destroyed the House of Commons in 1834 also destroyed many manuscript records from this time.

The pioneering scanner technology, which is unique in the UK, uses lasers to detect page edges and then a vacuum technique to lift pages and flip them over automatically without damaging them. Since the documents being scanned are original historical documents, the process must be undertaken very sensitively.

The digitising line robotic scanner, which is the size of a small transit van and weighs one tonne, arrived at the University in June. In order to get it into the Hartley Library, some windows had to be taken out and a crane was used to hoist it inside. The scanner is now up and running, scanning around 600 pages an hour. The University aims to scan around one million pages of historical tomes every year.

Southampton is collaborating closely with Stanford University in the USA, which took delivery of the first robotic scanner 12 months ago. The two universities are already pooling ideas and experiences in what is hoped will be a long-term work exchange programme to share expertise and develop research library projects in the future.

Simon Brackenbury, Digital Library and Imaging Projects Manager at Southampton, explains: ‘In a sense, this project is a case study in automation. The robotic scanner works at high volume and is enabling us to put together large amounts of information rather than just hand-crafting small collections of material. In this way we are breathing life into historical documents, giving unparalleled access to previously inaccessible parliamentary material.

‘This world-class scanning facility will without doubt greatly enhance the sector’s ability to make millions of pages of historic printed research records accessible as a full text searchable Internet resource cost-effectively and in the space of several years rather than decades.’

The material will form a permanent record of one of the most eventful periods of British history, covering the British Raj in India, the deportation of convicts to Australia and the beginning of the anti-slavery movement. In the late 18th century, Britain was establishing itself as an imperial power in India, the first ships carrying transported convicts arrived in Australia and the anti-slavery movement began.

The scanner is situated in the University’s Hartley Library, which is formally reopened by the Marquess of Douro on Wednesday 24 November after a £10 million extension and refurbishment. One of the aims of the project was to recognise the importance of electronic media and reflect how libraries will work in the future.

Sarah Watts | alfa
Further information:

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>