Hard Decisions

Since the Christmas break Lloyd’s Register Foundation has been looking more into the details of the pilot digitisation project for the Ship plans and reports. We’ve been considering the full workflow, as well as the companies and individuals that we need to surround ourselves with in order to be a success.

We are extremely lucky to have a strong, varied workforce at Lloyd’s Register with a plethora of knowledge in disparate areas. For us, it makes sense to take advantage of the specialist knowledge in the company and apply it to the different stages of our project to strengthen the endeavour and heighten confidence in our decisions. As a result, we are creating an advisory body of Lloyd’s Register employees who are the best in their field to advise us on the decisions that need to be made. For example, legal, contract negotiators, big data pioneers, IT, digital storage personnel, online presence developers, marketing and so on. This inter-sectoral assistance should make the outcomes of the project more durable and helps us to breach the void between specialist academia and the general public.

We have also spent this time looking at various companies for the different stages of the project. The Heritage and Education Centre have been particularly interested in identifying where the work of these companies will intersect, as they will need to co-ordinate and work together to achieve our goals. In all instances we are looking for those who show an interest in the collection, the innovation we are trying to achieve and really understand our motivations and goals.

These groups of companies include:

  1. Collections Management Systems
  2. Conservators
  3. Imaging companies
  4. Digital Asset Management Systems
  5. Workflows
  6. Website developers
  7. Crowdsourcing website providers
  8. Transporters

For each, this has involved a multi level process of elimination, beginning with identifying possible contenders, contacting them about their services, setting up a meeting for them to come and see the collection, visiting their premises for digitisation and getting quotes. We still have yet to make any final decisions about who we will be working with but the team are getting closer every day.

The imaging stage is perhaps, the riskiest for the archival documents in the digitisation process (excluding transport) so Lloyd’s Register Foundation have been attempting to approach this issue from a variety of angles to determine sources of risk, put measures in place to decrease its probability and contingency plans should something go wrong. As a result, we have been extremely thorough when investigating imaging companies to ensure that the collection is safe at all times and that the output is superb.

It is, of course, extremely desirable to have an intimate knowledge of the heritage sector, as this decreases the likelihood and severity of risks. To prove this we explored some companies that provided similar services in the business sector to determine whether they were able to work with the collection- the outcome was a resounding and forceful NO, they cannot! We had some awful experiences with people who had no idea how to handle a collection, as well as those that effectively wanted us to pay their set up costs so that they could start to work in the heritage sector. Suffice to say we are looking at companies that only work on heritage material now! 

Have you had any similar experiences with your search for providers and planning for digitisation projects? Are there any companies you would recommend? Or would you like advice on setting up your own? We are always happy to help and would love to hear from you!