Hampshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) has provided a digitisation service for external clients since 2013.

One of our first very significant commissions was from the Austin 7 Clubs’ Association.  The added value we could provide was behind our selection for this commission. During the first contact from the group, we identified that, as well as digitisation, the group was looking for other support with its archive. We run regular Archive Ambassadors workshops, mentioned in another blog and, as a result of our making that connection, a delegation from the Association came along to one of these workshops to find out more.The commission included handbooks and parts lists. Following initial discussions, we agreed on the ideal spec which would provide preservation master copies and also files of a size and type which could be downloaded from a web site at a reasonable speed.

Austin 7 document

When members of the group came to collect their original material at the end of the first commission, they were willing to bring along two Austin Sevens and pose for photographs. It was a beautiful sunny day, fortunately, and I got to ride in an open top vintage car!

Austin 7

We are currently working on another commission from the Association, which includes an album of photographs taken during the round the world journey of Gladys de Havilland. Born in 1888 in Nuneaton, Gladys was the sister of the famous aircraft designer and businessman, Geoffrey de Havilland. Whilst she was a child, the family moved to Crux Easton in Hampshire when her father took up the living there.

Gladys de Havilland Album

Gladys developed an interest in vehicles and, in 1918, wrote The Woman’s Motor Manual concerning military and civilian driving. At the age of 40, she decided to be the first woman to encircle the globe in a small car, and, having approached Sir Herbert Austin, was provided with an Austin Seven tourer, leaving the Longbridge factory in October 1928. Her tour took her via America, New Zealand, Australia, India and Europe, finally reaching Dover in May 1929, around seven months and 29,000 miles later. Little is known of Gladys’ life after her epic journey. She seems to have retired into obscurity, dying in Colchester in 1969 at the age of 80. If any readers can add details about Gladys, the Association would be delighted to hear from you.

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Our process for undertaking digitisation commissions involves breaking the work down into stages, with an amount of time allocated to each stage. Depending on the quantity of work, each time slot is multiplied to give a total for that stage. Not all stages are applicable to each commission. The total cost of the commission is calculated by the total amount of time required for the commission charged against a daily rate.

We work with customers to establish the needs of their project, discussing what outcome they are seeking. This helps us decide on the best approach, and advise on options they might want to consider. The involvement of our digitisation technician in the process helps to identify potential issues at the outset.

We ask a set of questions to agree the correct spec for the work. We need to know, for example, if the item is a volume, how should the pages be represented, does the customer want one shot per page, or per double page spread, or close-ups of individual items on pages? Should the covers be digitised?


Will we be providing one copy of each image or a back-up copy as well, maybe in a different format? What resolution, file type and size are required? These will depend on the future use of the images, so we discuss how customers plan to use them. For printing a large vinyl banner, an image of higher resolution or larger dimensions will be required than for a web-based image gallery.

As well as establishing the time necessary for the work, we ask about any deadlines, and how flexible they are.

Photography of collections of disparate items requires re-jigs of the camera set up, which takes longer. Equally, some things need to be photographed on the top of the camera rig’s table, rather than below its glass platen; this could be slightly quicker, unless the item is large and has to be photographed above the glass because it is unwieldy or delicate.


Underneath the camera table, there is a book cradle on a pneumatic support which can be raised and lowered to bring it closer to or further away from the glass platen.

There are very good reasons to choose an archive service for a digitisation commission. Our staff obviously have document handling skills, and are trained to handle archive material correctly. Our digitisation technician is also our preservation assistant, so has transferrable skills which are vital for document preparation before digitisation.

Any items which need to stay with us for a period of time during a digitisation commission are stored in our archive strongrooms, providing a secure and appropriate environment for them.

Another customer, a university archive, said: ‘We were really happy with the whole process and the final images.  It was really reassuring that the collection would be kept in a secure environment and handled appropriately by trained staff during digitisation.’

While our strength is archive material, commissions don’t have to be for old or fragile items!

If you have any questions, or would like us to undertake a commission, please contact us for a chat.

Heather Needham, Principal Archivist


2 thoughts on “Meeting Austin and Gladys: The work of our external digitisation service

  1. Hello Heather,
    A good article, not over technical so keeps the interest.
    Just one minor text item …was provided with an Austin Seven saloon …it was a Tourer.
    Looking forward to more details about Glad as she certainly did not fit the aviation or actress sides to the family!
    Phil Baildon, a7ca Archivist.


  2. Glad you enjoyed the article, Phil. I’d understood it was a saloon, so my apologies for that mistake. I’m still learning about Austin 7s!


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