Cutting-edge technology unlocks new ways to preserve and share Newcastle’s stories

14 May 2021

Rare and fragile items dating back to the early 1800s are now able to be digitally preserved for future generations by City of Newcastle.

Officially launched at Newcastle Library today, the high-tech digitisation lab will feature cutting-edge equipment including 3D scanning instruments and robotic page turners capable of converting 2,500 pages an hour into digital information.

The $400,000 DigiLab was co-funded through the City of Newcastle’s works program and an $85,000 Metropolitan Public Library Grant from State Library of NSW.

Councillor Carol Duncan said the DigiLab will enable the City to preserve hundreds of thousands of archival records, photographs, maps, pictures, newspapers and rare books, which document the story of Newcastle and the Hunter Region.

“Collecting, preserving, and sharing our local history and cultural identity is a key pillar for our Library Service and aligns with the objectives of our Community Strategic Plan 2030,” Cr Duncan said.

“The Library History and Heritage Collection encompasses more than 440,000 items, with some of these collections dating back to the early 1800s and featuring rare, unique and notable items.

“As the custodians of the City’s archives, we look forward to being able to preserve the many ageing records we look after thanks to the assistance of the State Library of NSW grant and our own significant investment.

“Following our successful digitisation of these records, we look forward to being able to open up this exciting service to our customers.”

Manager Libraries and Learning, Suzie Gately said providing greater access to this wonderful collection will support local researchers and inspire local creatives to interpret and use the digitised materials to present local history in different ways to reach new audiences.

“The DigiLab will provide rich, high quality content for both physical exhibitions as well as augmented and virtual reality, allowing us to tell Newcastle’s stories in new and innovative ways,” Ms Gately said.

“We will also be able to integrate this output with the technologies on offer at our Digital Library at 12 Stewart Avenue, including the 8 metre-wide Digital Storywall and the digital multimedia ‘Magic Box’, which is only the second of its kind in Australia.”

One aspect of the DigiLab that will be available for use by the community now is the Memory Lab, which will allow people to preserve their own histories and stories for future generations by converting treasured family items on VHS, VHS-C cassette and 8mm video camera tapes into digital files for free. Bookings are required to make use of the MemoryLab, contact Newcastle Library for more details.