After beginning digitising the WVS Narrative Reports in October 2016, the size and scale of the project felt almost insurmountable. However, as we slowly move towards slightly warmer weathers, the end of the project has now arrived. We have now managed to digitise the early wartime reports from 1938-1945 and after some extensive totalling, our digital archive now contains over 73,000 pages. Due to this achievement, I felt that it would be necessary to offer an insight into how the project has been accomplished.
Each individual Narrative Report that has been digitised is part of a structure that formed the basis of the WVS. To form this structure, the WVS split up the nation into twelve regions as it allowed them to have a highly effective chain of command. Each region included several counties. For example, Region 5 contained Kent, Surrey, East & West Sussex and the County Boroughs. Within each county, centres were formed in their local areas to encourage women to volunteer and give ‘service beyond self’. These centres provided the organisation with around 2000 monthly reports that represent some of the most important documents in British history.
To retain the quality of our original documents, we have shot the images in RAW and edited them through Adobe Photoshop Lightroom using the tethered capture setting. After taking the photograph, each report has had to be individually cropped to ensure that it is perfectly aligned. Upon completing a series of reports within a centre, the photographs are exported from Lightroom to our digital archive and saved in the archival standard format, TIFF. After each year of reports has been digitised, I have had to watermark each image and convert them into JPEG files. We have chosen this format because it has enabled us to reduce the file size whilst remaining a high degree of image quality. Once all of the files have been converted into JPEG’s, each centre is turned into a PDF/A ready to be attached to the catalogue and uploaded onto Archive Online. On average, it has taken about three months to completely finish one years’ worth of Narrative Reports.
Overall, the project has been a resounding success. For the first time in our 80 year history, we are able to bring these hidden histories into the light that they wholeheartedly deserve. It has been a painstakingly enormous task, but one that feels very worthwhile indeed.