How do we choose what to digitise?

The pilot digitisation project that Lloyd's Register Foundation's Heritage & Education Centre is embarking on, involves a great many decisions to be before the digitisation process starts in earnest. As we are only planning to digitise part of the collection at this stage so that we can hone methodologies and test suppliers and contractors, we had to choose which documents we would digitise.

How on earth do we do that when the archival collection has over 60,000 ships and around 1.2 million distinct documents in it?

After many different suggestions, we arrived at the conclusion that we would digitise the documents related to the most important ships classed by LR, including those that were the first of their kind and those that are famous worldwide. This ensures that we can catalogue these ships in a very thorough manner, having more time to dedicate to them than the other ships in our collection. They will likely be the documents that are most requested by the general public and so would be the most useful to have. If the full project does not go ahead, then at least these resources will be available all over the world.

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However, we are acutely aware that these are some of the most valuable documents that Lloyd's Register Foundation has in its maritime collection and as such they may not be most suitable to be guinea pigs for the pilot. As a result, we decided to have a pre-pilot phase, in which we sent off two of our boxes of documents on the Pamir to possible partners so that we could evaluate their work. The Pamir, whilst an extremely interesting ship is one of the younger ships in LRF's "First and Famous" collection that has been identified by the team. She is fairly representative of the collection and contains a huge array of documents including plans, correspondences, reports, certificates and many more. This way we evaluated the quality of potential service providers and the safety of the collection.

Having completed this pre-pilot we decided that we would digitise the First and Famous ships during the pilot digitisation project because we were confident in the skills of potential partners, which have yet to be finalised, and the workflow created by the Heritage & Education Centre staff. We think it is more important to make sure the most useful ships are digitised should the full project not be possible.