Micro Image joins in NAA $A67M Digitisation Push

The National Archives of Australia has announced Melbourne scanning bureau Micro Image as the winner of a tender to deliver an integrated document scanning facility over the next two year as part of the NAA’s new industrial scale digitisation hub in Canberra.

Under the partnership Micro Image, based at the new digitisation hub in the National Archives’ repository on Sandford Street in the Canberra suburb of Mitchell, will undertake large-scale digitisation of at-risk items from the national archival collection.

Micro Image will commence operating from the National Archives’ secure onsite hub in early 2022 and will supply all digitisation equipment and staff.

In July this year the Australian Government announced an extra $A67.7 million over four years to fund the National Archives’ Defend the Past, Protect the Future Program. This Program will see the digital preservation of critical at-risk collection material, including audio-visual content, before Deadline 2025.

Over four years, more than $A45m of the $A67.7m will be allocated to the task of digitising collection items and preserving them in a next generation digital archive, safeguarding the most at-risk items and improving online access to the national archival collection (approximately $A25m on digitisation and $A20m on the next generation digital archive).

The NAA says the new digitisation hub will also enable it to significantly upscale its proactive digitisation capacity, ensuring more of the collection is digitally preserved and available online, for use by government and the community. NAA staff will identify, prioritise and prepare records for transfer to and digitisation by Micro Image in the Digitisation Hub at the Sandford Street facility.

“Micro Image will undertake further preparation as required and agreed, before digitising and quality checking the final image. Both the image and the records will then be returned to National Archives custody where staff will undertake final quality assurance checks before loading the digital image to the collection database RecordSearch, where it will be accessible to the Australian public.

“Micro Image may on occasion also undertake metadata extraction on records, deploying their technology and expertise to increase the efficiency of this process. Micro Image will equip the digitisation hub with a variety of technology, along with trained staff, that will enable them to respond to a variety of different record formats and sizes.

“This builds on National Archives’ existing approach to best use of in-house and external provider capability.  Hosting the Digitisation Hub and increased digitisation capability on-site, will deliver time and cost efficiencies, as well as improved secure handling and preservation management of collection items during the digitisation processes.”

‘We are very pleased to be partnering with Micro Image to launch this new capability. Use of commercial providers, in conjunction with our inhouse digitisation team, is a cost-effective and time-efficient way of digitising large amounts of the national archival collection. This will result in more records being preserved, digitised and made available online to all Australians, regardless of where they live,’ said David Fricker, Director-General, National Archives of Australia.

Another approach to market (ATM) is underway to establish a service panel for the digitisation of photographic formats (including photographic negatives, prints, microforms and aerial film).

Through the Outsourcing Digitisation Services for Audiovisual Formats Panel (SON3682659), arrangements are underway with providers to digitise magnetic tapes prior to Deadline 2025.

The National Archives is also currently partnering with several providers, including FujiFilm, W&F Pascoe and Datacom IT on other large-scale paper digitisation projects, including Bonegilla Migrant Registration Cards and the $A10m 4-year WWII Military Service records project.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s intelligence community has conceded it is breaching laws governing how some of the nation’s most important historical documents are stored, revealing more than 10 kilometres of classified documents are gathering dust and may never be made public.

The foreign affairs department revealed it has one million hard-copy files, the majority of which are classified, stored on more than 10 kilometres of shelves in Canberra, state capitals and in overseas embassies. The storage costs in Canberra alone are $A230,000 a year.

The department believes it will “never be resourced sufficiently” to review these archives so that they can be publicly released. There are another 24 kilometres of Foreign Affairs records held by the National Archives, many of questionable value.

The Office of the Attorney General has more than 85,000 archive boxes containing paper records held across Australia, as revealed in a recent tender issued by the OAG which is seeking to replace its current provider of document archiving and retrieval services.