November 21, 2017

Q&A with Adam Matthew Digital’s Martin Drewe

Adam_Matthew_logoPrimary sources publisher Adam Matthew Digital, an imprint of SAGE Publications, launched its newest digital collection in September. Apartheid South Africa, sourced from The National Archives (TNA), London, offers comprehensive coverage of previously classified files from the Apartheid Governments of South Africa.

Section I of the collection begins with documentation of Apartheid’s implementation by the National Party in 1948 and ends in 1966, the year South Africa Prime Minister H. F. Verwoerd was assassinated. When complete, the database will cover more than three decades of Apartheid’s history in South Africa.

LJ recently spoke to Martin Drewe, Senior Publisher at Adam Matthew and the key person in the National Archives relationship, about this new project, the process of working with TNA material, and the documentary the two produced about the making of the collection.

LJ: What is the scope of the digitization project?

Martin Drewe: We are currently working with TNA on two new digitization projects.  The first of these, Apartheid South Africa, is a three-module project that will make available hundreds of thousands of pages of material from the British government relating to Southern Africa between 1948 and 1980. Apartheid South Africa is available through Archives Direct, a cross-searchable portal which brings together multiple collections from TNA covering British political relationships with the rest of the world.

Each of the three sections of Apartheid South Africa operates on a six to eight month timescale from when digitization first begins at TNA to the final release, and the team works hard throughout this process to keep each section on track.

In addition to Archives Direct we have a new project on Colonial America which will see us digitize the whole CO 5 class. This is largely 17th- and 18th-century material with a high proportion of manuscript volumes and correspondence, and it will have a very different feel from Archives Direct. The first segment will contain wonderful documents on frontier life, early expansion, trade networks with the American Indians, the Atlantic dimension, and colonial rivalries. Due to the age of this material, the timescale is necessarily a lot longer. Our project team has just embarked on a process of indexing that will take nine months, giving a duration of 18 months between the beginning of scanning the first module (of five) and its projected publication date in 2015.

How did it begin, and how has it changed and evolved over time?

Our digitization partnership with TNA grew out of the significant collaboration we developed during the 1990s.

We installed our own dedicated Zeutschel scanners at TNA in 2009, which allowed us to move forward quickly with a large program of digital titles for international relations and area studies, forming our Archives Direct portal. Digitization at TNA also involves important contributions to thematic projects such as Global Commodities and the First World War portal.

When will it be completed?

The digital partnership with TNA is ongoing and we have lots more projects lined up for the next five years. These are a mix of further Archives Direct projects as well as further significant contributions to multi-archive initiatives such as “Migration to New Worlds,” which launches towards the end of 2015. The three modules of the Apartheid South Africa will be completed by Spring 2015. There is lots of variety in our schedule and there are over 11 million records covering over 1,000 years of history to choose from.

Why choose to participate in this, as opposed to a homegrown digitization process? What benefit does it provide to the archives, as well as to Adam Matthew customers?

TNA is committed to digitizing as much of its content as possible, whether through its own initiatives, grant funding, or commercial partnerships. The royalty revenue received by TNA and the conservation work financed by AMD helps make this a win-win relationship. Getting more collections digitized is a key mission for TNA. The availability of more digital content is a great benefit to the global academic research community. It drives further interest in TNA collections and helps overseas scholars who can only get to London on an infrequent basis. The upgraded Discovery online catalogue launched by researchers is a further boon for remote users and all those planning research trips to Kew.

Who is involved in putting the documentary project together? How long did it take, and what are your goals for it?

We worked closely with TNA to ensure viewers get an accurate impression of what goes on behind the scenes during the digitization process. We used specialist production company D.G. Pictures for filming, which took place over two days in London. It was exciting to capture this process on film and everyone involved was enthusiastic about appearing on camera. We may have discovered some movie stars of the future!

We hope the documentary will be of interest to anyone looking to gain an insight into how archives and publishers can work together to digitize archival collections. The aim was to show all stages of the project lifecycle from initial assessment of materials through to collection care, scanning and, ultimately, the digital resource.

The documentary will be available on the Adam Matthew YouTube channel and website.

What else would you like to share about this project?

The whole Archives Direct portal received a major upgrade this year. We created a new platform complete with robust interactive mapping, enabling scholars to make connections between material from across the collections by geographical regions and countries. These enhancements mean Archives Direct has become an ever more powerful tool for researchers of diplomacy and area studies.

We have also offered the National Archives and Records Service in South Africa free access to Apartheid South Africa to ensure the availability of this valuable content to the South African community.

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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