A centenary is a time for reflection and celebration of history.
In preparation for their centenary in 2018, Scots PGC College revolutionised access to their history. The private, co-educational school engaged Avantix, one of Australia’s largest information processing solutions companies, to undertake digitisation of nearly 100 years of school yearbook magazines.
Scots College and Presbyterian Girls College (PGC) were ‘brother and sister’ schools, from 1918 to 1971, sharing church services and all-important social dances. Drawing on their shared Scottish heritage, Scots College’s yearbook was known as The Clansman and PGC’s Miss Thistle. In 1971, the schools merged and the yearbook became The Tartan. Still produced, these magazines are formal overviews of the life of the school, including detailed reports and professional photographs. The wealth of history within the pages is substantial.
The history has become greatly sought after. Clare Cartmill, Administration Officer and compiler of The Tartan, reports that the school receives regular requests for information from the yearbooks. In testament to the school’s excellent customer service, all requests were met even though this could mean hours of manual searching through the magazines, which had already been bound into books.
As plans for celebrating the centenary were discussed, the school realised that the treasure trove of stories were simply not accessible enough.
“For a brief moment, the school considered doing the digital scanning in-house”, says Cartmill. “Then management realised what a big job it was.” The staff also understood how precious and fragile the magazines were, meaning that using an expert digital scanning service was a must. In many cases, these were the only remaining publications in existence.
Jim Cohen from Avantix, agrees. “To scan each page one at a time on a flatbed scanner would take 3-4 minutes per page and put the spines of the books under significant stress and strain,” Jim says. “Due to the way the magazines were bound into hardcover books, it required a specialist V-Cradle book scanners to produce the highest quality images and, at the same time, preserve the original material.”
For Scots PGC College, the advantages of having their entire collection of magazines digitised in a way that the material is fully catalogued is abundantly clear. “Now students and staff can type a name into the search box and, what would previously have taken hours takes seconds,” says Cartmill. ‘Then it is simple to press print.”
With many of the requests for information related to preparing eulogies for past students, this efficiency proves a real blessing to grieving families. “Our pipe band is often asked to play at funerals,” says Cartmill. “Being able to search for information about the person who has died means that the leader of the band has some background, which is good for everyone.”
Cartmill found the process of digitisation easy. “Avantix were in constant communication,” she says. “We are completely happy with the outcome.”
Other plans for the centenary include a ball (just like those dances of old) and a student tour of Europe. Closer to home, Scots PGC College plans to set up a computer and printer in the archive area so that individuals can do their own searching at their leisure. With a Past Student Association that has over 2,500 members and in excess of 10,000 past students who have moved through the school over the past 100 years, this is an digitised archive that will be used to its full potential well into the next century of the school’s life.
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