3589 pages of historic archives scanned in Schifflange
CK’s scanning service has scanned and digitalised a significant proportion of the town of Schifflange’s archives. This is delicate work as many are old documents, but is vital to preserve Luxembourg’s history and make it accessible to researchers.
Large notebooks filled with yellowing pages and the upstrokes and downstrokes of old-school handwriting: these are Schifflange’s historic record books, the oldest of which date back nearly 150 years. What do they hold? Deliberations by the town’s councils over the course of multiple decades. Clad in white cotton gloves, Myriam Putzeys peruses them carefully with a hint of nostalgia. "They hold exciting information about Schifflange’s history. But the pages had become fragile over the years, the binding had worn and the ink had begun to fade", Schifflange’s archivist notes.
Given this and in order to preserve its historic heritage, last year the town decided to restore and scan 25 of its oldest records, produced between 1876 and 1968.
"These documents were archived at the town’s secretariat, piled in a safe. They were too delicate to allow others to view them. So it was time to do something about it", councillor Carlo Lecuit explains.
Latest-generation scanners for fragile books
These precious documents were entrusted to CK’s care, or more specifically to the scanning department under Philippe Schweitzer. "Thanks to the two new book scanners that we acquired last year, we have been completing work of this kind regularly for numerous towns. We also have various people seconded to the EIB and the National Library of Luxembourg", he notes.
During October 2022, the CK team collected the various records from Schifflange and took them to their own premises in Leudelange for scanning. This took a total of three weeks of work. "We used cutting-edge book scanners tailored to the fragile nature of volumes such as these, more than a century old. They enable capture at 400 dpi in less than a second whilst also offering very high image quality. After scanning, the image goes through a post-treatment process to improve legibility and refine the picture", Philippe Schweitzer adds.
However, CK’s mission did not end there: since December, the team has been continuing its scanning activities for the town, this time with school booklets. ‘These are logbooks for Schifflange classes, which were being kept in the education department and will be returning there. Reading them offers an insight into classroom life at the time.
The period during the war is particularly interesting, as French disappears and propaganda can be read between the lines. These documents reflect the town’s political, cultural, economic, religious and social past, and exploring them is a fascinating process. For example, the other day I read that at one point, the price of a school bench was the same as a teacher’s salary’, Myriam Putzeys of the archival service excitedly tells us.
Organising and digitising thousands of documents: the challenge for towns
Today, thanks to CK’s scanning efforts, all of these old documents have now been digitised and can be consulted via the town’s server.
"As well as complying with the 2018 law on archiving and helping to preserve our heritage for future generations, we also especially wanted to make these documents available to historians, researchers and people wanting to research the town or their family", Carlo Lecuit emphasises. By the end of 2022, nine research requests had already been submitted, without any work to publicise this new access available to digital archives.
In the same spirit, and once again with CK’s help, the town has also been working to inventory and rearrange its various archive rooms, which are overflowing with thousands of documents. ‘Some rooms did not offer the best conservation conditions and were in complete chaos. We had to sort through all of the documents crammed in left and right, clean, classify and do a complete stocktake… It was a huge amount of work in terms of archiving – to identify what we needed to keep, what we could throw out and what we would be scanning – as well as organisation, with an entire classification system to be set up’, Myriam Putzeys emphasises as she wanders along the impressive corridors with their metres of cabinets, now lined up and properly numbered.
This is a long-winded task that is still ongoing, but one that is more necessary than ever for Schifflange, just as it is for many other Luxembourg towns with archives to manage and preserve.
Digitization of large format plans and documents: a challenge or a challenge ...
How can you optimize your printing costs reduce your environmental footprint ?