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Documenting the Workshop of the World

The ‘Documenting the Workshop of the World’ project saw the digitisation of over 10,000 historic images charting the development of the Industrial Revolution in the Black Country, as well as the cataloguing of a series of archives from businesses across the region.  The project involved a team of 5 specialist staff who spent 3 years uncovering archive material and adding it to the computer catalogues. 

A series of public events helped to raise awareness of the archive services and encourage people to discover more of the fascinating history of their part of the Black Country.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the project?

The ‘Documenting the Workshop of the World’ project aims to open up access to the archive collections of the Black Country archives services at Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

We will employ 5 staff over a three year period to catalogue archives from a wide range of businesses ranging in date from the 17th – 20th century.  Over 50 collections have been identified and prioritised ranging from coal mining to iron and steel making, leather manufacture to a Punjabi credit union! We will also digitise at least 10,000 photographs from our image collections and make them available via the World Wide Web.

The project is being undertaken by a partnership between Dudley Archives and Local History Service, Sandwell Community History and Archives Service, Walsall Local History Centre, Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies, the Black Country Consortium and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

What are you doing this for?

The Black Country was a key player in the industrial revolution that made Britain the Workshop of the World. The region became a significant manufacturing centre, particularly with regard to metal trades. The Black Country retains links to its historic past, as it is still an important centre for metal trades and manufacturing.

In terms of population just over 20% (or 1.10 million) of the West Midlands population live in the Black Country .  In terms of archive services, 32% of visits to any of the West Midlands archive services take place in the four Black Country services of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton .

Adding information about the history of the Black Country will mean that a wide range of people who would be interested in the material but who find it difficult to get to the services for various reasons will be able to access this information around the clock and around the world.

How long will it take?

10,000 images will be digitised and a variety of archives catalogued and made available online by early 2008.

Where has the money come from?

The Heritage Lottery Fund has given the project £442,000 and the Black Country Consortium has provided an additional £75,000.

Why these archives out of all your holdings?

Business and industrial records are one of the strengths of the Black Country archive services.  These collections reflect the period in the history of the region that saw it develop into what became known as the Black Country.  Business archives also tend to be some of the largest and most complex of the collections we hold and we are keen to see them used by researchers by the provision of adequate catalogues.  Adding details from the archives and as well as photographic images will ensure the history of the Black Country is made more widely available.

Why aren’t you digitising and cataloguing the whole archive?

Between them the archive services hold approximately 100,000 images and over 70,000 boxes of archive material.  The quantities of material held would make the task of digitising every piece an extremely large and complex one.  What this project will do is lay down standards and procedures for digitisation as well as provide hardware and software which means digitisation can be continued after the project formally ends in 2008.  The ultimate aim will be to digitise all of our images (copyright permitting) as resources and funding allow.

What happens at the end of the project?

At the end of the project all information will have been made available via the World Wide Web.  A system will be in place whereby extra cataloguing and digitised images will be uploaded by each of the four offices at regular intervals after the project has formally ended.  The four archive services are committed to ensuring the increased and continued access to its collections.

How are you doing the digitisation and cataloguing?

The cataloguing of archive collections will be on DS CALM software which is already used in each archive service within the Black Country and in local authority archive repositories as a whole.  Cataloguing will conform to a number of national guidelines, notably the General International Standard on Archival Description (ISAD(G)), National Name Authority Files (NNAF), International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies,
Persons, and Families (SAAR) and Encoded Archival Description (EAD). By working to these standards we will allow for the interoperability of our information, most notably with the national Access to Archives (A2A) project.

Digitisation of photographic material will be undertaken according to guidelines issued by the Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI) at the University of Bristol and will be based on the SOAP principle – Scan Once for All Purposes. The digitisation will be undertaken in-house by project staff, which will ensure control over technical standards and quality assurance will be maintained.

Scanning will be undertaken using an Epson Expression 1640XL which will allow us to scan up to A3 size.

Processing will be done using Adobe Photoshop 7/MS

Metadata will be stored in the CALM catalogue linked to the image.

What about preservation?

Master TIFF images will initially be saved onto a computer hard disk in each repository.  Copies will also be saved to CD-ROM and DVD and will be stored off-site for security reasons. JPG files will be stored within the DS Calm software and copies will be also be saved off-site on CD-ROM and DVD.

Metadata will be recorded for each image. 

What metadata do you record?

There are two types of metadata ("data about data") associated with the images of the ‘Documenting the Workshop of the World’ project. Firstly, all the cataloguing data for the image (date, subject, place, name, photographer etc) is held in a DS CALM database.

The second level of metadata relates to the digital image files. In order to identify, preserve and re-use these files, accurate data about their creation and content needs to be kept for the future. The following data is considered a minimum for each image:

Resource identifier [image number]
Subject keywords
Description – abstract
Resource type [image]
Coverage – spatial [location]
Coverage – temporal [date]
Creator [photographer]
Rights management [copyright]
Date created [scanned]
Format – medium [TIFF/JPG etc]
Format – extent [dimensions]
Capture device [scanner]
Compression ratio
Compression type
Capture mode [8 bit grayscale (std) or 24 bit colour (std)]
Pixel resolution
Capture resolution [300dpi]
Colour space RGB
Colour management Not applied
Capture setting [custom]
Orientation [landscape/portrait]
Colour correction [off]
Contrast n/a
Brightness n/a
Metadata record created by
Metadata record created on
Metadata record amended by
Metadata record amended on

What about copyright/intellectual property rights?

The Black Country archive services and the Heritage Lottery Fund are both concerned that intellectual property rights (IPR) are fully protected. IPR in the photographs belong to the authors of the individual items, not to the holders of the physical item (i.e. in most cases not to the archive services). Permission to digitise images will be obtained from those copyright holders who have been able to be traced. Details of individuals and firms whose copyright holders cannot be traced is available. If you feel you are a copyright holder and we have not yet been in touch, please contact the relevant office.

We would like to thank those copyright holders who generously agreed to make available photographs for which they hold the copyright.

How is the material made available on the web?

The archive catalogues are held in DS CALM software.  The search facility is provided by DScovery. The hardware, software and data will be hosted by Crossnet Systems Ltd.

Will I be able to print from the web?

Low resolution images will be available on the web, and you may print these for the purposes of research or private study only. High resolution images for publication or other purposes can be obtained from the relevant archive office, and fees may be payable.

Can I look at the original records?

Yes! If you find something of interest in the online catalogue we encourage you visit the relevant archive office where the original records are held and where a full range of research facilities are available.

Each archive service is open to the public most days of the week.  Contact the relevant office for further details.

Contact Us

Dudley Archives and Local History Service

Sandwell Community History and Archives Service

Walsall Local History Centre

Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies


This web site contains general information about the ‘Documenting the Workshop of the World’ project. Nothing on these pages is to be taken as constituting specific advice about our services. Please contact the relevant archive office in advance on any specific matter relating to your visit or to the records we hold.



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