The National Archives of Australia’ efforts to increase online access to its vast collection have been given a major boost with the signing of a contract with commercial digitisation provider Micro Image to operate from the Archives’ new industrial scale digitisation hub.

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.

In July this year the Australian Government announced an extra $67.7 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 audiovisual content, before Deadline 2025.

The digitisation hub will also enable National Archives 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.

‘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.

This innovation follows the recommendation of the Functional and Efficiency Review of the National Archives of Australia (Tune Review) to establish centralised storage and preservation of the national archival collection. The mass digitisation hub forms part of this model, which will result in cost savings and more of the collection being digitised, preserved and accessible.

Digitisation onsite reduces the risk of damage to, or loss of, irreplaceable collection material during transportation to an offsite provider. Complete with specialised digitisation equipment, the digitisation hub also facilitates the appropriate handling of fragile historic material that may need preparation and conservation, prior to digitisation.

‘Micro Image has a strong track record of providing quality and time-critical digitisation projects. We look forward to continuing our productive relationship with the National Archives, with our operations now based in the state-of-the art digitisation hub in Canberra,’ said Bruce Shaw, Managing Director, Micro Image.

Micro Image will commence operating from the National Archives’ secure onsite hub in early 2022.