About Coventry Digital
Coventry Digital is an online archival resource, created in January 2021, and maintained by Coventry University, as part of their commitment to City of Culture 2021/2022.
The project has already brought together tens of thousands of national, local and community digital assets to create a unique ‘city’ archive, giving a very real sense of Coventry’s past and present. These varying collections have been directly contributed by the public, institutions, and even commercial collections, offering users access to a range of historically disparate local content through a single point of access.
The challenge of connecting people to their past
A common feature of archive content is that it often remains undigitised. Even those archives who have created enduring digital records struggle with siloed, poorly indexed content, often only available in a low resolution.
With Coventry’s objective to “connect people to their past”, they were aware that a single archive rarely paints the full picture. To truly achieve their mission, a broad range of diverse content needed to not only be digital, but also be accessible, connected, and searchable.
Initially, the Coventry Digital team brought together thousands of already digitised images from institutions like the Coventry Archives, City of Culture 2021 Trust, and community artists and families.
Next, they turned their attention to a wealth of undigitised material – from maps to manuscripts – working in partnership with the experienced digitisation team at Genus to create digital replicas of the previously inaccessible content.
At this point surfaced a critical need to identify a platform to ensure this digital archive could be brought to life and ultimately deliver Coventry’s goal of available, searchable and valued content for Coventry, and the communities it represents.
Platform selection process
The solution selected needed to meet a set of stringent criteria:
- Safe and Scalable
- Controlled Distribution
- Process Incoming Submissions
- Licensing & Royalty Management
- Customisable Interface
Coventry Digital selected Capture as their DAM partner, as our scalable platform and existing partnership with Genus offered a truly end-to-end solution. From physical archive to fully digitised, keyworded, indexed asset, Capture and Genus ensured the content could be searched, enjoyed, shared as well as licensed.
How it works
Step One – Identify & Digitise.
Working with Genus, Coventry has been able to digitise a vast catalogue of physical archive content, which it will continue to add to as content is identified. With Capture’s expert support, existing and new digital assets were reviewed, ‘cleaned’ and indexed for ingestion. All of Coventry Digital’s assets are added to the collection via Capture’s Submissions module.
Step Two – Organise.
Assets, once submitted, are moderated and “defined” before being published. The definition – i.e., metadata annotation and keywording of content – is a complex, but essential process for archival assets, undertaken by Capture’s Professional Services team, ensuring content is ultimately searchable.
Step Three – Publish.
Launched last year, Coventry Digital now allows the public to register and access the collection for free. Additional partnerships, such as the use of SmartFrame technology, allows secure access to super high-resolution images, as well as enabling users to share content to other third-party sites, such as blogs or special interest sites, whilst retaining control over the image.
Making the platform publicly accessible has increased interest and awareness of the project, encouraging more user-generated content and submissions.
Step Four – Licence
With both traffic levels and content engagement growing, Coventry Digital will, over the course of 2022, be offering users the ability to licence content from the site, opening up a revenue stream to both provide continuous funding for the project and a means of reinvesting into the digitisation and ingestion of more and more incredible local content.
For Coventry, as UK City of Culture 2021, the collection is a crucial part of their legacy and will mark this historic moment in the City’s history. For Coventry’s community, it is becoming a treasure trove of content connecting them to their past.
Coventry’s decision to establish this archive really underlines the fact that the value and benefit of an archive does not become tangible or realised until it is digitised, accessible, connected, and searchable.
- content generates organic reach via social media shares
- image embeds used on third-party sites such as arts projects create both awareness as well as backlinks to Coventry Digital improving SEO
- image licensing, generates a new revenue stream to help perpetuate the service.
In the first year, Coventry Digital has already seen;
- Over 300k searches
- 40,000 assets and counting
- Organic reach that’s generating revenue
As the collection grows, so does Coventry’s ambition. Establishing relationships with entities like MirrorPix (Coventry Telegraph archive) and Historic England (the Laing Archive) has led to the collection now currently combining around 100 separate archives, with photographs dating back to the late 19th century.
What’s next? What’s in it for you?
The team at Coventry Digital have already demonstrated that there is an appetite for both commercial and publicly funded archives to provide more open access to their content. The easier it is for users to find and engage with content, the greater the potential to drive reach, revenue and ultimately, more effectively connect societies with their past.
Whether your collection is digitised or physical, small or large, owned or licensed, the aim is to create a searchable, safe and secure environment in which entities can share, manage and even license content on both a local and a national scale.
So, what does that mean in practice? Capture’s DAM platform will offer an option of ‘connecting archives’ through an aggregated search function across any number of archives, but delivering content as one, browsable result to the end-user. Each ‘connected’ archive operates independently through its own separate website and configurable Capture platform and leverage the benefit of the opted-in aggregated or ‘meta-search’.
As a result, archive holders can generate a wealth of new reach and engagement for their content into contextually relevant audiences that they have not previously been able to access, offer a reciprocal benefit to other archives and create new opportunities to generate value or revenue.
Coventry University, in partnership with Capture and Genus would like to invite you to engage with our exciting plans to bring together diverse, relevant and engaging socio-historical content in a culture-enhancing and commercially viable way.
What exciting assets can you bring out of their silo, and into the (digital) light?
Header Image: Dr Ben Kyneswood, Director at Coventry Digital, speaking on the project at the Museums and Heritage Show 2022. (Photo by Simon Callaghan)