We started CBJ Digital Ltd in 2005 and, before that, directors Mike Thirlwell and Malcolm Iliff have consulted on internet-related matters since the mid '90s. During this time we've been fortunate enough to meet and connect with members of the archive community and have worked with them on some of our most interesting and exciting projects.
We set up DigitalforArchives as a way to showcase our expertise in this domain and to create a space to highlight the work of archivists and researchers in the UK. Our case studies and clients should give you a taste of the kinds of project we have undertaken; please get in touch if you think we can help you.
How around 2,091 handwritten letters (over 10,000 pages) were transcribed and published on Rothschild Forum website in just a few months.
We have worked with the Rothschild Archive since 2009, building a public informational website and a dedicated forum site for registered researchers. Towards the end of 2015 they approached us with an interesting new challenge.
In the early 20th century Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild wrote over 2,000 letters to his cousins at M M de Rothschild Fréres Bank in Paris. Copies of these letters were made and kept in the vault of the London bank and these survived until today. These books of letters are now fading and some are very difficult to read.
To protect these letters and preserve their contents the Rothschild Archive had each page digitally photographed, enhanced and indexed. Taking this cache of files as our starting point, we built an online transcription submission system into the existing Rothschild Archive Forum website. Volunteers then logged in to the site and worked on their allocation of pages from the comfort of their own homes, deciphering the handwriting and entering the text of each of the letters' pages directly into the website. Once completed, each transcription was moderated and approved by the Archivists, again directly through the site.
By mid-2016 all of the letters were completely transcribed. They were made available to members of the Rothschild Archive Forum, presented letter-by-letter, page-by-page for browsing or full text search.
How we worked with the Baring Archive to build a beautiful new showcase for family and business portraits from the archive.
Since the launch of the original Baring Archive website in 2008 we've continued to develop it, adding new functionality and overhauling the entire site in 2016 with a fresh and mobile-friendly design. A key part of the website is the exhibitions section, which contains histories of the Baring Archive illustrated with media from the archive. Earlier this year the archivists approached us with a new challenge: to present selected portraits from the archive as an exhibition that would focus more on the imagery and be less heavily text-based. It should also be capable of leading the viewer through the portraits, highlighting certain areas on each picture, and it should allow portraits to be grouped together into sections.
Our current exhibitions 'module' could not support any of this functionality, intended as it was for presenting mainly textual stories. Taking our inspiration from elsewhere on the web, Google's Art and Culture exhibits and the Wellcome Collection's stories we built an interactive slideshow with zooming pictures to draw attention to particular areas of interest. We also added several navigation options: next and previous buttons, a visual index, a home button to return to the beginning of the exhibition and a section navigation slider strip. This latter element indicates the visitor's current location within the exhibit's sections and can be used to jump rapidly between sections. Each section overview slide also has thumbnail links to jump directly to pictures within the section.
All of the features and content of the exhibition are content managed so Baring can create and add further exhibits of this type without further intervention from us. We now intend to develop this module further, adding audio and video elements both for content and commentary. We will also produce a plugin for Wordpress.
Business History Explorer
Building a new resource on the web
Building a bigger, better web application for easier management and faster, more accurate search.
The Business History Explorer grew from the seed 'A Bibliography of British Business Histories', first published in 1987. John Orbell's tireless work since then has resulted in a database containing well over 45,000 entries. The Business Archives Council approached us in 2012 to put this database online and, from these files, we built the first incarnation of the Business History Explorer web application.
This year, working closely with Orbell, we have rebuilt the Business History Explorer from the ground up to take advantage of advances in the technologies available to build more powerful search-based applications. Using Ruby on Rails as the back-end we built a bespoke CMS to allow records to be created, retrieved, edited and published easily so that the catalogue can continue to grow. We also used ElasticSearch to build a lightning fast and flexible search engine so that locating information about particular businesses and publications is now quicker and easier than in the first version of the app.