Digitised Records

FOI request reference: CAS-68214-J2Q6X7
Publication date: May 2021

Information provided

Request and response
1) On your website, you have mentioned that many popular documents have been scanned, digitised and indexed. How many records, on a rough estimate, have been digitised so far?
We do not hold this information, as a record does not equate to a page, or even a set number of pages, which is how the majority of our digitising partners record their work. However, to build on the answer to a similar FOI request made in 2016, which you reference in your enquiry, we estimate that the following has been digitised:

a. Over 19 million images of our documents have been created by licensing partners (excluding the 1921 census, which is an ongoing project and figures will be updated on completion) in the period 2017 to the end of March, 2021
b. Our in-house digitisation team have produced over 1.5 million images in the period April 2018 to the end of March, 2021.

2) What percentage of your records has been digitised?
We do not hold this information as we do not have exact figures. In 2016 it was estimated that around 8% of our total collection had been digitised. It is difficult to state what percentage of our records have been digitised, as a record doesn’t equate to a certain amount of pages, and, in the same way that we are continuously digitising, we are also continuously accessioning new material. A rough estimate would be that, currently, approximately 10% of our collection has been digitised.

3) How many of the digitised records are available online?
We can confirm that 62,770 records (pieces) have been digitised and can be downloaded as 8,609,023 individual PDF documents through Discovery.

Of the images referenced above in the response to question 1, those created by our licensing partners are largely available online, or will eventually be available online, via the partners’ websites and products, and via the computer terminals available to the public at Kew.

The images created by our in-house team are mostly paid for by third parties, for example overseas archives and universities, who provide research material for their users. They are not necessarily available online in the same way that commercial partner images are, although some are. It is not possible to provide a figure for this.

4) Also, currently digital records are available on your website free of charge since reading room services are limited. What would be the normal charge before COVID-19?
To answer your last question, before COVID-19, the records available on Discovery for download which were charged for (although not all were), were £3.50 per PDF download.