12. Going Digital at the Wellcome Library (part 2)

C0034458 Wellcome Building, exteriors.

Wellcome Building, exteriors. Photo credit: wellcomecollection.org

As I compose my research paper and dive into my literature review, I have found that, despite Dr. Christopher Hilton’s claims that “Nothing is finished yet,” much has been accomplished within the thriving library and archives department at the Wellcome Trust in regards to digital preservation and access. The Wellcome Library has the financial resources to experiment and test innovative ideas for its library and archive. Ideas, it hopes, that can be shared. Hilton explains how in the past the Wellcome Library has learned from others and relied on other institutions for the base of its standards related to imaging practices. Now, in the twenty-first century, it is trying to give back.


The Wellcome Trust. Photo credit: wellcomecollection.org

While the task of digitization is daunting even for large organizations like the Wellcome Library and its impressive resources and a hefty allocation, the hard work of these more established organizations and their innovation through a somewhat expensive system of trial and error has and can continue to pave the way for imaging practices for those on smaller budgets.

For my literature review, I found a helpful source that specifically supports the idea that larger institutions can help their smaller counterparts save money while creating and maintaining digital collections. In Practical Digital Preservation: A How-to Guide for Organizations of Any Size (2013) Adrian Brown guides the “non-specialist” through the overwhelming and confusing masses of information available on imaging practices. He breaks down and aligns the simplest steps toward an effective preservation strategy. Through international case studies on organizations based in the United States and the United Kingdom such as Central Connecticut State University, Gloucestershire Archives and even the Wellcome Library, Brown conveys the best practices used by real organizations in digital preservation. He argues how digital preservation has become a critical matter for all memory institutions, regardless of size and resources. What was once a concern of the larger, generously funded organizations with the finances to staff a specialized team is now a matter that information agencies and “non-specialists” on every level are facing. They look to the established institutions like the Wellcome Library for help.

After my research visit to the Wellcome building and talking with Dr. Christopher Hilton, the senior archivist, Dr. Christy Henshaw, who oversees the Wellcome Library’s Digital Program, and also Rada Vlatkovic, the archive content and metadata officer, I have been accumulating and formulating the basis for what I feel confident will be a well-rounded analysis of the progress the Wellcome Library is making for digital preservation. In my paper, I plan to document the history and resources of the Wellcome Library and its recent innovation in digitization equipment and software, techniques and workflows, and its standards related to imaging practices. In 2007, what began as a project to digitize 480 historic Arabic manuscripts turned into a £20 million endeavor to create an entirely new digital infrastructure for the Collections, which, as Dr. Christopher Hilton explains, was “one phase of mass digitization.”


Brown, A. (2013). Practical digital preservation : a how-to guide for organizations of any size. American Library Association.


Photo credit: wellcomecollection.org

This is a short clip published by the Wellcome Library in 2013 that highlights the details of the open access fund. Notice The Reading Room in the Library! Only two years ago, it had a much more scholarly, academic aesthetic compared to what the space looks like today. See my first post on the Wellcome Library to compare.

Wellcome Library Open Access Fund


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