The world is around 4.5 billion years old. And the human race about 200,000 million, so in that time, we have created some amazing memories, key pieces of history and contributed to the world as we know it today. Yet none of this would be possible for us to know without the reading about it. Yes, we can hear stories from our elders, but to really understand how the world once was, we need to read about people’s experiences first-hand.
The problem with this is the fact that some of these items are hundreds – if not thousands – of years old. So as time progresses, these deteriorate until they become unfathomable. But this is where scanning comes in. A somewhat new concept, the idea of digitalising endangered documents has been hailed as a way to preserve historical items for future use. Turning ‘analogue’ materials into digital forms, it means that they can essentially last forever.
Manuscripts, books and historical documents have all been digitised and locked forever into digital forms. The 11th-century Doomesday Book is one of the most prominent. The 1000 year old book is now online for all to sift through at their leisure. And in the 10 years since it has been online, it has attracted a whole new audience ready to discover more about the key document.
There are currently around 80 million pieces of information digitised and published and preserved online. And highlighting just how important this is, there were 17 million visits to the UK Government Web Archive last year.
Featuring texts from around the world, the digital library is awash with important information that is key to building our history. Highlighting what brought us here today, the documents and manuscripts enable us to build a picture about what life was like for our forefathers – both in this country, and right around the world.
Medieval manuscripts are some of the oldest to adorn the archives, detailing life between the 5th to the 15th century. Key for understanding the incredible history of life hundreds of years ago, the documents make for fascinating reading for historians and those keen to learn more about life before most of the items we know and love today were even invented.
Photographs and negatives paint a glorious picture of life before modern cars, buildings and technology. Yet photographs are extremely fragile and can be destroyed in an instant. Digitalising these can help to preserve them for many years to come, allowing future generations to look back in awe at the world as it once was.
Before technology and the internet, newspapers were essentially the only way to find out what was happening in the local area and beyond. Chronicling history day by day, scanning newspapers offers an incredible insight into life 50, 100 and even 150 years ago.
As the world develops, more and more documents will be created. Treaties, contracts and scripts are all important parts of our history that, more often than not, are physical items. By making sure these are preserved sooner rather than later, we can ensure that our history will be remembered for years to come.