Posted by on October 26, 2017

Suzanne Paterson, Digitisation Project Officer at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, chats about their recent Recognition Funded digitisation project, Moving Images 2.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum holds over 14,000 negatives in its photography collection – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg if we take into consideration our slides or prints! The museum had undertaken some early digitisation work (owing mainly to the hard work and determination of a long term volunteer and, later, a Heritage Horizons traineeship) however the museum successfully applied for an MGS Recognition grant to continue the digitisation of the negatives. The project Moving Images 2 started in March 2016 and is fully-funded until December 2017. As the project is draws to a close, I wanted to share some of the things we’ve learnt learnt along the way…


Photographs are a fantastic resource for public engagement

I know, I know, this is stating the obvious… but if there’s one thing that I’ll take away from this project it is: photographs are a wonderful talking point and you never know where the conversations will take you. Over the course of the project, we’ve held an ‘information gathering’ exhibition where the public were invited to share their knowledge and add information to our records; run a weekly ‘Photo Friday’ series on social media; curated a ‘highlights’ exhibition; and have used the digitised images as inspiration for and part of two event programmes. We’ve also been lucky to have had a different image featured weekly in the local Fife newspapers. Throughout each of these, we’ve appealed for information and the public response to this has been fantastic. Thanks to the digitised images, we’ve had some great conversations, reminisced over memories, and reconnected families with their past. Photographs really do have an uncanny ability to get people talking.


Digitised collections are a great way to use and raise awareness of your museum and its collections

Prior to any digitisation work, our negatives had been hidden away in the stores, not really being used or appreciated. Now, having a wealth of accessible digitised images has enabled us to use the collection and in turn raise awareness of the collection and the museum as a whole.  Where we once had a small selection of images (which we were guilty of reusing time and time again) we now have a thousands of images to use – and use them we have!  We’ve used the digitised images in education packs, in partnership projects, in the media, and in our temporary and permanent galleries. Our ‘Photo-Friday’ posts have reached audiences worldwide, we’ve been featured in national newspapers, and our online Photo Search means that location is no longer a barrier to accessing the collection. Thanks to digitised images, we’ve increased our audiences and improved accessibility to our collection.


It’s a marathon, not a sprint

It’s true, digitisation work – especially in-house digitisation work – is a task of endurance. It is repetitive, time-consuming, and not for techno-phobics. I enjoy my role because of the balance of digitisation work and public engagement but truthfully, I wouldn’t enjoy it quite as much if it was entirely digitising – it is not a task suited to everyone! Likewise, digitisation work is a long term commitment for any organisation; it can been slow and it requires careful consideration before you’ve even started. We’ve implemented new workflows, new methods of documenting the images,  and we’ve revised our targets several times. Moving Images 2 is an ambitious and large scale project – and just the first step! Once the negatives have been completed, we’ll work our way though the remaining areas of the photographic collection which includes slides, glass slides, and prints. It’s safe to say, though, that this is quite the undertaking and is likely to take years to complete! You never know what you’ll uncover along the way – here are a selected few of our ‘finds’…


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