Digital Collections Development Manager, Anna Creedon tells us about London Transport Museum’s latest digitisation project using the Versascan A0 flatbed
The collection at London Transport Museum comprises of more than 450,000 objects, which cover all aspects of public transport in London from 1800 to the present day. The objects reveal the social history of transport, the urban history of London and the technical advances that have moved millions of Londoners over more than two hundred years. The collection also reflects transport developments and concepts for urban transportation in the future.
The material has been selected for preservation by Transport for London (TfL), London Transport and predecessor companies since 1925. There are over 80 road and rail vehicles representing significant developments in London’s public transport; more than 5,000 designs and 800 original artworks reflecting graphic art since 1908; and over 100,000 photographs documenting London’s transport and the changing face of the city since the 1860s. Other collections include tickets, ephemera, uniforms, film, enamel signs, architectural fragments, operating equipment, station furniture, and the library collection. Together these reflect the breadth and depth of transport’s reach into the fields of art, design, technology and social history.
The project was initially conceived to enhance catalogue records displayed on our new Collections Online website. We located the ten-week scanning project at our Depot in Acton Town. Our aim was to scan large format objects that we wouldn’t normally be able to digitise in-house due to their size, for example, posters and drawings. Having seen a demo at the Heritage show, we also hoped to experiment with scanning other 2-D objects from the collection, for example ‘Moquette’ a seating fabric. Aside from record enhancement, we hoped to further utilise the digital assets as part of a ‘print on demand’ facility via the London Transport Museum shop website. The project schedule also included two weeks of scanning to support our forthcoming ‘Poster Girls’ exhibition.
How did you hear about the VERSASCAN?
We saw a demonstration of the VERSASCAN 3650 A0 large format scanner at the Museums and Heritage Show.
What made you decide to hire an A0 flatbed scanner?
Prior to the commencement of the project, we considered both the outright purchase and hiring of an A0 large format scanner. Being able to scan objects in-house and not having to move the objects offsite (along with all of the logistical problems this would entail) was very appealing to us. This also enabled us to hire staff with previous Museum experience, who were familiar with handling objects and who had experience of using our cataloguing database.
As this was a new endeavour for us, it was agreed that we would explore a rental model approach rather than purchase equipment outright initially. The project will serve as a test case for potential future digitisation large format scanning projects.
What were your thoughts on the training provided by Genus?
The training was concise and covered everything we needed to get started promptly following the initial introduction and equipment demo.
Did you and other members of staff find it easy to use?
The equipment is very easy to use indeed. Both digitisation technicians were able to get started more or less straight away. The actual scanning process was very quick. The movement of objects, subsequent image editing and processing of images on our internal catalogue system took the greatest time!
Do you know how many scans you achieved during the 10 weeks you hired it for?
We originally estimated 100 scans could be completed in a week, resulting in 1000 scans over the ten week period. We exceeded this target and completed 1503 scans over the course of the project, a 50 per cent increase. This increase in productivity was certainly due to how easy the scanning process was using the VERSASCAN.
Have you used it on any other materials in your collection other than posters?
Yes, we also scanned; Moquette seating fabric, photographs, drawings, artworks and maps. We were particularly impressed with the results of the fabric scans.
Do you have any hints or tips for anyone thinking of renting/buying the VERSASCAN?
Advance planning and preparation was essential. Daily scanning batch lists were produced for the duration of the project in advance of the arrival of the scanner. This ensured objects were ready prior to the commencement of each days scanning. A basic workflow was created, although we were prepared to tweak any stage if required as the project progressed.
We invested in additional consultancy regarding colour calibration and management. We met Geoff Laycock from Scan Data Experts at the Genus Digitisation Workshop when he presented a talk. Geoff alongside a colleague, Andrew Bruce from The Postal Museum, reviewed workflow, advised on resolution and helped set up the colour calibration. This consultancy proved invaluable, it gave us confidence that we were producing high-quality scans from the outset of the project, which was especially important from a retail and printing perspective.
Has the VERSASCAN improved your productivity and, if so, in what way?
The Versascan has improved our productivity, especially in terms of the quality of assets produced. It is unlikely that scans produced as part of this project will have to be re-scanned. We have a series of high-quality digital reproductions at our disposal for many uses including exhibitions and marketing purposes. An additional advantage being that object handling is reduced in the future.
What is your overall feedback on the service provided by Genus?
We are extremely pleased with the service we received from Genus from start to finish. Communication was prompt throughout, the team were very approachable and offered advice and guidance when needed. I would particularly like to highlight the usefulness of the Genus Digitisation Workshop. It provided a good starting point for the project we were about to undertake. I would definitely recommend both this and services provided by Genus to others considering similar large format scanning projects.
Genus would like to thank Digital Collections Development Manager, Anna Creedon, at London Transport Museum for her contribution to this case study.
For more information about LTM’S collection please visit https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/collections-online