Using digital photography to capture archival material: some tips and tools

As libraries relax their photography rules of library materials, scholars are increasingly using digital photography to capture printed and archival material. That is great news but does pose a few headaches also, in particular, in my experience the following:

  1. How do you get the best quality images? Bodleian Libraries doesn’t permit the use of flash, for instance.
  2. How do you organise your many images so you can find them again?
  3. How do you add description information about the source, copyright statement, etc.?
  4. How do you make sure you don’t infringe copyright?

Following a useful post on the H-HistBibl mailing list recently, I would like to share some pointers for those struggling with their many images or who want to make best use of them.

Check here what the rules are for Bodleian Libraries, British Library, Cambridge University Library and Bibliothèque nationale de France.

1. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Libraries had written a fairly comprehensive guide on Using Digital Tools for Archival Research.

This guide covers all the basics from the choice of cameras, how to take pictures to organising your photos and use of software and the all important back-up (just do it!!).

Illinois guide on digital tools for archival research

2. Thomas Padilla posted a tutorial on how to extract plain text data from images of print based archival content using optical character recognition (OCR).

Padilla - from image to text

3. Finally, Miriam Posner wrote about turning JPEGs into PDFs and about batch-processing photos.

Posner - batch process photosWhat use of digital cameras and personal scanners do other major research libraries allow?

Bodleian Libraries rules:

  • Library visitors may use personal scanners and digital cameras to make copies from library material, with some exceptions.
  • All equipment with the exception of flat bed scanners may be used.
  • The use of flash photography is forbidden at all times.
  • Some libraries and reading rooms have created specific areas where digital photography and scanning can take place. Please look for signs indicating that you are in the designated area or ask staff.
  • Other libraries have not set up dedicated areas and will allow these processes anywhere in the library.
  • Please consult library staff before using your digital camera or personal scanner.
  • As a general rule, scanning or photography of material is at the discretion of library staff. Please consult library staff to see if an item is eligible to be copied. You will be asked to fill out the relevant application form.
  • Please observe the guidelines above and ensure that you comply with the copyright restrictions.
  • You may make digital copies for the purposes of private study or research for a non-commercial purpose.”

British Library rules:

Compact cameras, tablets and camera phones may be used to photograph some categories of material for personal reference use only. Copies, including photographic copies, must not be used for a commercial purpose. Please also be mindful of privacy and data protection laws.

Self-service photography is intended for personal reference copies, not for copying at scale or commercial copying. The Reading Rooms are not able to support the requirements of professional photography.”

Cambridge University Library rules:

“Cameras can be used to photograph most of the Library’s material as long as a form is completed and copyright regulations are observed. These photographs are for private research and study only and cannot be distributed, placed online or used within publications. Images must be ordered for these purposes.”

Bibliothèque nationale de France rules

“Les lecteurs de la Bibliothèque de recherche peuvent utiliser leur appareil personnel pour photographier gratuitement des documents des collections de la BnF.

Seuls les documents publiés il y a plus de 90 ans peuvent être photographiés. Les photos doivent être réalisées à des fins d’usage privé et sur une place désignée à cet effet.

Une autorisation de prise de vue est à demander au bibliothécaire.

La photographie des écrans d’ordinateurs ou d’appareils de lecture de microformes est interdite.”

ArcGIS for Historians Training Session Wed 11th Feb

Places are still available on the following training course:

This practical session provides an introduction to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in historical research and analysis. It will focus on making historical maps of study areas, using symbology (colour coding etc.) to encode historical statistics and other information and extracting geographical data from scans of historic maps. Book a place (SSO required)

ArcMap ScreenshotConvenor: Michael Athanson, Deputy Map Librarian, Bodleian Library
Venue: IT Training Room, Radcliffe Science Library

High-quality scanner now available in Sackler Library

If you are looking for a scanner which will produce high-quality images for you, then you will be pleased to know that the Sackler Library’s high quality Genus Kiosk scanner is now operational.

It is recommended that it be used primarily for scanning images, not text.  To use the scanner you need a USB memory device and a current PCAS account.

Where is the scanner?

Sackler Library, Floor 2, Scanning Room (next to the lift lobby).

Are there any instructions how to use it?

Instructions for using the scanner, and the PCAS system to which it is connected, are available in the second floor scanner room.  These instructions are extremely clear and should enable readers to use the scanner without needing Sackler staff assistance.

You can also view a demonstration video (YouTube).

Sackler scanner

If, however, help is needed, please call Diane Bergman on 01865-278089 (internal x78089).

How much will it cost?

The charge is 25p per saved scan. Repeated scans can be made; you pay when you choose to add a scan to your USB.

Seek help from library staff if you get unstuck!

Open Access Oxford – Talks, workshops and surgeries for Open Access week

Open Access week Oxford Oct 2013Bodleian Libraries will be running a programme of Open Access talks and workshops throughout the 2013/14 academic year, kicking off in Open Access week (21-25 October) with an exciting talk by Sophie Kay on applying open principles in scientific research; a number of open access surgeries where you can ask your questions  and our two popular workshops “WISER: Open Access Oxford – What’s Happening?” and “WISER: Your thesis, copyright and ORA”.    More details:

The Open Scientist: The Why, When and How of Open Scientific Research  (Sophie Kay) (Thu 24 October 14.00-15.00) (wk 2)
A must for DPhil students, this session led by Sophie Kay will discuss the application of open access principles in scientific research at PhD level and beyond.  Sophie will be:

  • Discussing what openness means in modern scientific research
  • Introducing a wide variety of resources and tools that can help researchers
  • Considering the advantages of Open Science and potential obstacles and difficulties
  • Building researchers’ awareness of, and confidence in navigating, the modern research landscape

Who is this session for? Research postgraduates, researchers and academics.
Presenters:  Sophie Kay (Open Science Training Initiative and Doctoral Research student n the Department of Computer Science)
Venue:  Radcliffe Science Library.    Booking is essential.  >Book your place online

WISER: Open Access Oxford – What’s happening? (Mon 21 Oct 14.00 – 15.00) (wk 2)
A briefing on open access for research publications and Oxford’s position including Green vs. Gold Open Access; funder mandates and publisher policies; the Oxford Research Archive (ORA) and Symplectic and how to get help with Open Access.
Who is this session for?  Current Oxford research postgraduates, researchers, academics and staff.
Presenters:  Juliet Ralph and Johanneke Sytsema
Venue:  Taylor Institution  > Book your place

WISER: Your thesis, copyright and ORA (Tues 22 October 9.30 – 10.30) (wk 2)
Oxford DPhil students are required to deposit a copy of their thesis in ORA (Oxford University Research Archive). This session will focus on copyright and other issues that DPhil students need to take into account when preparing and writing their thesis so that they do not encounter problems when they deposit. DPhils are encouraged to attend this session early so that they can make sensible decisions regarding rights from the start of their research.
Who is this session for? Oxford Research Postgraduates who are required to write a thesis
Presenter: Catherine Goudie
Venue:  IT Services, 13 Banbury Road  > Book your place

Open Access Surgeries
An opportunity to drop in with your Open Access queries. No need to book, just come along to one of the following venues.

  • The  Knowledge Centre, Old Road Campus (Wednesday 23 October 2-4pm)
  • The Social Science Library, IT Training Room (Thursday 24 October 10am-12pm)
  • The Cairns Library, Beeson Room, John Radcliffe Hospital (Thursday 24 October 10-12am)

Coming next

Our Open Access week talks and workshops are just the start of Bodleian Libraries Open Access programme.  Over the course of the academic year we will be organizing talks from a variety academics, publishers and others covering a wide range of Open Access topics including Open Access in the Humanities; Open Access in drug discovery; Open Access journals; OA, impact and Altmetrics; Open Educational Resources; MOOCs; OpenData and Open Software. Watch the BodWISER blog for more details.

Europeana app for iPad: digital resources on European culture at your fingertips

Europeana app cover

Europeana app. Click to download from iTunes

Europeana fans and those who looking for digital resources relating to European culture will be delighted to know that there is a free app “Europeana Open Culture” for the iPad.

What is Europeana?

Europeana is a vast and growing digital library capturing digital cultual resources of Europe’s galleries, museums, libraries, archives and audiovisual collections.

It Includes many different types of materials:

  • images of paintings,
  • drawings,
  • maps,
  • photos and pictures of museum objects;
  • texts of books,
  • newspapers,
  • letters, diaries and archival papers;
  • sounds of music and spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts;
  • videos, films, newsreels and TV broadcasts.

There are also themed collections, e.g. Europeana 1914-19.

Which countries are covered?

The list of contributing libraries, museums, etc. is long but very interesting. It gives you an idea of the countries involved and scale of the operation.

Looking to use some images? Some resources are free for re-use but please check on terms & conditions first.

If you are reading this from an ipad, then you can download the app from iTunes.

Related Links:

Check out our Pinterest board Apps for Historians for more useful apps.pinterest


Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

The United States’ answer to Europeana for Europe, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. “The DPLA offers a single point of access to millions of items—photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Users can browse and search the DPLA’s collections by timeline, map, format, and topic; save items to customized lists; and share their lists with others. Users can also explore digital exhibitions curated by the DPLA’s content partners and staff.

Sessions on digital images and open access plus Thesis Fair this week


There are two WISER sessions coming up in weeks 3 and 4 this term:
Digital images: ARTstor, Bridgeman Education and VADS for teaching and learning  (Tue 07 May 14:00-16:00) (wk 3)
The course examines two major digital image collections subscribed to by the University – ARTstor and Bridgeman Education – and a third resource, free for educational use, VADS. All of these are geared to research and teaching in the humanities, history of science and medicine, and social sciences. Viewing, presenting and managing images are also covered.
Presenters: Clare Hills Nova and Vicky Brown > Book Now
WISER: Open Access Oxford – what’s happening? (Thu 16 May 11.00-12.00) (wk 4)

A briefing on open access for research publications and Oxford’s position: Green vs. Gold; funder mandates and publisher policies; Oxford Research Archive (ORA) and Symplectic; new OA website/ helpline.
Presenters: Craig Finlay and Andy Kernot > Book Now

Keeping up with Bodleian Libraries training opportunities
Why not follow join our mailing list by sending an empty email to, follow us on Twitter at or visit the BodWiser blog at

Not a member of Oxford University?
If you are not a current member of Oxford University but would like to attend a workshop please contact Please quote your Bodleian readers card barcode number.

Please contact

plant 474 x 267 morguefile ANThesis Fair for 2nd year historians

Thursday 9 May 2.30-4.30pm
North Writing Schools, Exam Schools, High Street, Oxford

The Thesis Fair is running on Thursday afternoon and is an opportunity to talk to expert librarians, archivists and other subject specialists about how to find resources for your subject.  Whether you’re still picking your topic or have already started researching, advice is available on resources, skills training, reference management and tips on how to manage your thesis from a fellow student. This is a drop in session throughout the afternoon, 2.30-4.30pm and no booking is necessary.

Related Links WISER Workshops LibGuide | Bodleian History Faculty Library Training webpage | Thesis Fair Webpage | Reference Management LibGuide | Contact Us

History Database of the Month: Rock and Roll

Our database of the month for March is Popular culture in Britain and America 1950-1975: Rock and Roll, Counterculture, Peace and Protest.

Homepage of the database

Homepage of the database

What is this database?

An example image from the database - Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament © The People's History Museum

An example image from the database – Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament © The People’s History Museum

The database includes a variety of primary sources, including video, images and printed material covering the period 1950 to 1075 in the UK and US.  It also has some material on other parts of Europe (for instance Mai ’68 student protests in France).  The collection can be browsed by type of material, topic and date and also searched for key words.  The main themes covered by the material are:

  • Changing Lifestyles, 1950-1975
  • Youth Culture
  • Student Protests across Europe and the US
  • Mai ‘68
  • Popular Culture; TV; Music; Movies
  • Book, Magazine and Film Censorship
  • Civil Rights; Women’s Liberation; Minority Groups
  • The Space Race
  • Consumerism; Credit Cards; Computers
  • The Vietnam conflict
  • Nuclear Disarmament

In addition to the primary sources, chronologies, essays by specialists such as Robert Opie, a dictionary of key terms and links to other online resources are included in the database.

oxlip +How can I access it?
University of Oxford members can access this subscription resource on and off campus via OxLIP+. Remember to sign on to OxLIP+ with your single sign on when accessing the database off-campus.

Other useful databases on 20th century popular culture

Related Links OxLIP+ | Primary Sources Online Guide for Historians (PDF)  | Modern History Sources Guide (PDF) | Guide to using OxLIP+Contact the History Librarian

Bodleian Libraries paintings on BBC Your Paintings website

Your Paintings is a website created by the BBC and the Public Catalogue Forum, which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings, the stories behind the paintings, and where to see them for real. It is made up of paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.  There are around 212,000 records for paintings from over 3000 locations on the site.  Most records have a digital image of the painting, along with details of where the original painting is located.

your paintings

The site can be browsed by painting title, artist or the geographical location of the collection or gallery, and also searched by keyword.  This free resource will be of interest to historians from a variety of fields, as well as history of art scholars.  Keyword searches reveal paintings of World War One trenches, many medical-related images and key figures in history from across the globe.

your paintings Bod Page

(c) BBC Your Paintings

Painting from the Bodleian Libraries and other places in Oxford

The Bodleian Libraries section of the site contains over 330 oil paintings.  These are mainly portraits of people linked  to the Bodleian Libraries, royalty and images of the decorated ceilings in the Bodleian Library.

There are also collections from other parts of the University (e.g. Pitt Rivers Museum), colleges and halls (including Oriel, Brasenose, St Stephen’s) and Oxford Brookes University.  Many other places in Oxfordshire have also contributed images including municipal buildings, schools and museums.

Related Links Bodleian Libraries homepage | Oxford History of Art Department | Art and Architecture LibGuide

WISER Courses in Week 7

Next week Bodleian Libraries will be running workshops on data, images and reference management.   Also don’t forget that this Friday we’ll be running WISER: Searching Online New Sources.

WISER: Searching online news sources (Fri 16 Nov 10.15 – 12.15) (wk 6)
News sources are primary resources for researching contemporary political and social issues. This session will provide an overview of the key resources and hands-on exercises with databases such as Nexis UK, Factiva, and Proquest.
Who is this session for? Postgraduates, researchers and academics.    Presenter: Mark Janes > Book Now

ARTstor and Bridgeman: using images in teaching and learning (Tuesday 20 Nov 2.00-4.00) (wk 7) –  The course examines two major digital image collections subscribed to by the University – ARTstor and Bridgeman Education – geared to research and teaching in the humanities, history of science and medicine, and social sciences. Viewing, presenting and managing images are also covered. Who is this session for? All members of Oxford University.
Presenters: Clare Hills Nova and Vicky Brown > Book Now

WISER: Tech Tools – Reference Management (Wed 21 Nov 2.00 – 5.00) (wk 7)  – Keeping track of your references and formatting them correctly for your thesis or publication is a chore. Reference management software makes it easy and is worth investigating. This introductory session gives an overview of how it works and the pros and cons of RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley. Who is this session for? Postgraduates, researchers and academics.
Presenters: Ljilja Ristic, Oliver Bridle and Angela Carritt > Book Now

Research Skills Toolkit
An introduction to 10 key IT and information tools and skills for research students in a hands on workshop run jointly by IT Services and Bodleian Libraries. Sample topics include: reference management, keeping up to date, finding articles and papers, Excel pivot tables, finding and managing images,  podcasting, Word for your thesis and measuring research impact.    Who is this session for? Postgraduates.  Historians’ session is Tues 27 Nov 10am-12  >  Check dates for your subject and book your place

Keeping up with Bodleian Libraries training opportunities
Why not follow join our mailing list by sending an empty email to, follow us on Twitter at or visit the BodWiser blog at

Not a member of Oxford University?
If you are not a current member of Oxford University but would like to attend a workshop please contact Please quote your Bodleian readers card barcode number.

Questions? – Please contact

Related Links WISER webpage | HFL training webpage

Using images in teaching and research – hands-on courses 13 and 20 Nov

Anybody who works with images in your teaching and research may be interested in the following two courses  taking place in week 7 and week 6 respectively. Booking is required.

Digital images: Sourcing, adapting and safe keeping

Tuesday 13 November, 09:15-12:15

Digital images are a valuable part of your research, sometimes critically so. This three hour session will introduce you to some of the key issues that you need to be aware of when sourcing, adapting and using digital images. Although the focus is the use of images in an academic context, the ideas covered are equally relevant to your personal image collections.

Booking at:

Bridgeman Education logo

ARTstor and Bridgeman: Using images in teaching and learning

Tuesday 20 November, 14:00-16:00ArtSTOR logo


The course examines two major digital image collections subscribed to by the University – ARTstor and Bridgeman Education – geared to research and teaching in the humanities, history of science and medicine, and social sciences. Viewing, presenting and managing images are also covered.

Booking at: