Tuesday, 1 April 2003

Launch of Future Technology to Preserve the Past

A collaborative public and private sector relationship has established New Zealand's most technologically advanced centre for the preservation, archiving and retrieval of precious historical and cultural records. The Heritage Materials Imaging Facility (HMIF) launched by the Hon Marian Hobbs, Minister responsible for the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, on Friday 23rd May at the National Library. The facility has installed a Cruse colour digitising camera, only the second in the southern hemisphere, which has been brought to New Zealand through the collaboration of Victoria University's New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, NZ Micrographic Services and the National Library. The digitising camera greatly enhances the ability to reproduce artworks, photographs, letters, newspapers, manuscripts, fragile books and other important documents. Apart from being the largest scanner of its kind in Australasia, weighing more than one tonne and able to scan originals up to 1.5 metre by 1 metre in size, it generates a superbly accurate and high resolution image using the least invasive methodologies available worldwide. The scanner evenly illuminates the image but only projects minimal heat and light that to avoid harming sensitive originals.

Cruse scanners are in use in places as diverse as NASA's Johnson Space Centre, the Vatican Secret Archives and New York fashion houses. Andy Fenton, Director of NZ Micrographic Services, says there has already been keen interest in the Heritage Materials Imaging Facility's scanner from Dunedin's Hocken Library, home of many first editions of New Zealand rare books, which has commissioned the facility's first job. "The quality of the scans and the location of the facility in the secure and climate controlled National Library Building in Wellington was a key factor in the Hocken allowing the work to be done outside Dunedin." Elizabeth Styron, Director of Victoria University's New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, says having such manuscripts in digital format will make them accessible to researchers all over New Zealand and worldwide. "The images that are created are easily retrievable, supporting future research, education and understanding of our New Zealand history. Ultimately the benefits to libraries, galleries, publishers, museums and collectors are very significant," she says.

The launch featured speeches from the partnership leaders: Penny Carnaby, National Librarian at the National Library; Elizabeth Styron of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre and Andy Fenton of NZ Micrographic Services, and was hosted by Victoria University Chancellor Rosemary Barrington. Examples of the scanner's work were on display, and can be viewed on the HMIF website

"With the National Library Act 2003 just passed by Parliament, this is a strategic time for archiving and preserving New Zealand's documentary heritage," Penny Carnaby says. "Technologies such as the HMIF facility will help ensure that memory institutions have the world's best technology. We're very pleased to collaborate."