Two UK institutions, the University of Warwick and University of Leicester, have used CONTENTdm to digitise materials from their archives and special collections and publish them online. In the videos below, project staff talk about their achievements with the system. They are joined by a range of individuals—academics, students and a local historian—who talk about the difference that CONTENTdm has made to their own areas of specialism and to their institutions as a whole.

CONTENTdm at University of Warwick

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The University of Warwick began its digitisation work with the Marandet collection of French Revolutionary plays, which had been stored in boxes for decades. The collection gives a real flavour of the theatrical scene in France in the 18th and 19th centuries. Having digitised the first half of this collection, the University of Warwick moved on to work with materials from the Spanish Civil War, publishing them to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the founding of the International Brigades.

CONTENTdm at University of Leicester

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The University of Leicester has built up an impressive range of online collections, digitising local artifacts dating from the 19th century onward, in collaboration with community organisations. The collections combine industrial with popular history, so factory floor plans and handbooks sit alongside materials such as oral history recordings, maps, photographs and even political memorabilia. The objective, to show the changes in and around a typical British industrial city, transcends the merely local.

“Usage statistics are increasing with every newly digitised collection. CONTENTdm has provided an avenue for showcasing our materials.”


Similar needs lead to a single solution

Staff at both universities needed a system that was cost- effective and attractive, but without technical complexity. With funding in place, they each selected CONTENTdm. Ben Wynne, Head of Academic Liaison at University of Leicester, explains: “We chose the hosted version of CONTENTdm, so we wouldn’t have to worry about infrastructure like servers, or manage software upgrades. For the most part, things simply work seamlessly, and staff have been able to focus on the collections themselves, describing them and making them available online.” Stuart Hunt, Data Services and Digital Production Manager at the University of Warwick agrees. “It was very easy to get started, to get content online, and to make it accessible and usable,” he says.

Supporting university strategies

“Digitisation is very important to our library strategy,” continues Stuart. “Whilst there will always be print collections, electronic is growing, and our users want to access content wherever they are, so digital resources are the way forward.” Ben Wynne, meanwhile, was keen to support the institution’s community outreach strategy. “Growing numbers of our academic colleagues are involved in a range of community engagement activities,” he says, “so we wanted to make our digitisation projects relevant to that work. We worked with local organisations like the Leicester Industrial History Society and the Rothley Heritage Trust. This collaborative approach gave us privileged access to valuable resources and really added to the wealth of materials that we were providing. It was great to be able to set up CONTENTdm for them to use themselves. I think that worked well.”

Making a difference to teaching and research

For both universities, delivering teaching and learning materials has been essential. At the University of Warwick, a number of courses taught to undergraduates required student access to primary research materials. In response, early stages of digitisation even involved undergraduates in the selection of materials.

The University of Leicester has also created teaching resources from digitised primary materials. “It means you can access them in the classroom,” explains Colin Hyde from the School of Historical Studies. “Students can access them off-campus; in fact anyone can access them. And they can cross-reference between video, audio, photographs and documents as well.“

Raising the profile of the university

Both universities are delighted with the growing international profile of their respective collections. University of Leicester Project Manager, Tania Rowlett, says: “Usage statistics are increasing with every newly digitised collection. CONTENTdm has provided an avenue for showcasing our materials. Previously people had to search our library catalogue, make a request and arrange a time to come in and view the items. The university and the local history groups we’ve worked with have received enquiries from people around the world wanting to find out more. We have publicised it in local newspapers and at conferences and we send out flyers to local historians and groups. It’s even been mentioned on the local radio. CONTENTdm also makes our materials fully searchable from Google, so they reach a much wider audience.”

Staff at the University of Warwick are similarly aware of the institutional impact of their work. “CONTENTdm has helped to draw attention to our materials,” says Stuart Hunt. “Our Spanish Civil War resources have generated international interest and have been featured in Times Higher Education. And our Marandet collection of French drama attracts users from around the world. That’s exactly what we want—we want people not only within the university, but outside it as well, to use it.”