Digital conversion of Nineteenth century publications - production management in the Australian Cooperative Digitisation Project 1840-45

23 January 2007

This article will discuss and evaluate the management and production issues of the Australian Cooperative Digitisation Project 1840-45 - a collaborative project funded by the Australian Research Council. The completion of this digital library project allows the authors to reflect on the technical issues and the interrelationships of the content, project organisation, the production model with its access and preservation goals, and issues of quality control, in relation to the future viability of such projects. -- " It may in truth be said, that in no country, and at no period since the invention of printing, has there appeared a greater necessity for a periodical conducted with spirit and principle, in the popular cause, than there does appear to exist in the colony of New South Wales at this moment. The only journals of character now existing upon any basis that offers to be permanent, boast of their “moderate conservatism”; a term which according to our interpretation means just as much oppression of the many by the few as the spirit of the age will bear.....unless the people are fully represented in the periodical press, as well as in the councils of the country, their rights will in the conflict of factions and interests be greatly endangered” - The Weekly Register of politics, facts and general literature, vol 1 no 1 July 29 1843. -- The period 1840-45 was a seminal period in the development of an Australian colonial culture. This period, following the end of convict transportation and preceding the influx of the gold-rushes, was characterised by exploration and expansion, conflict, commercial growth, political agitation and a surge in local publication reflecting the issues and concerns of the time. Journals, such as the Weekly Register, led and engaged in the political and social debate of the time, and remain today as the voice and contemporary record of the period. The Australian Cooperative Digitisation Project, 1840-45 (ACDP) was funded, through an Australian Research Council grant, to both digitise this contemporary record for access and ensure its long term preservation. The project has been a collaborative initiative between the University of Sydney Library, the State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW), and the National Library of Australia (NLA) Fundamental to the success of this project was the need to establish practical and implementable standards for large-scale digital conversion, in the context of the hybrid (microfilming and imaging) production model adopted using external vendors. The project - following the access and preservation initiatives developed in the US - has been described in a number of earlier articles (these can be found at the project site at, and we do not intend to revisit these descriptions in detail. This article will address and evaluate the management and production issues of what has been a complex developmental digital library project.. This complexity can best be characterised by the interrelationships of the nature of the content, the project organisation, access and preservation goals, production issues and management, and image quality control.