Digitisation of paper records is a huge opportunity for the archives sector to reach audiences far broader than those who visit archives in person. Commercial digitisation has already put millions of pages online and continues to grow.

There are opportunities for the sector to come together and exploit economies of scale for digitisation and licensing with the commercial sector. The first phase is now complete, bringing together over 100 services to digitise school registers dating from before 1914 from 13 counties across England and Wales.

More information about the first phase is available on the Archives and Records Association website. 

The school records from the first phase are accessible from Findmypast.

Steps in the first stage were:

  • scoping and developing a consortium bid for a major record series, with support from the sector
  • identifying regional hubs willing and able to act as secure scanning points
  • surveying the record series proposed in terms of size, number of images, condition and conservation needs
  • offering support, advice on contracts and commercial proposals

Following an invitation to express interest and supplier days held at Manchester Archives and Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in June 2011, bids were considered and a contract was awarded to Findmypast.

Future national series which might be explored include:

  • wills
  • quarter sessions
  • petty sessions
  • Poor Law records
  • school records
  • 1910 valuation records
  • parish registers