+ Crowdsourced digitisation with DocScan

At the READ project, we believe in using cutting-edge technology to help people study a rich variety of historical documents.

The Computer Vision Lab at the Technical University of Vienna (one of the READ project partners) have developed the DocScan mobile app for this very purpose.

The app automatically detects the page area of a document in milliseconds and provides real-time feedback on the quality of the image. It also has an auto-shoot feature which will take a picture every time a page is turned. It works especially well when used alongside our ScanTent device (also developed by the Computer Vision Lab), which holds a mobile phone in place above a historical document and allows for hands-free scanning.

The remarkable potential of these tools was revealed at our recent Transkribus User Conference. Dirk Alvermann from the University of Greifswald Library (one of READ’s MOU partners) presented the results of an experiment his team had been conducting.

The idea is that archival users can work with DocScan and the ScanTent to digitise historical documents with their mobile phone and then share the resulting images directly with the archive.

As shown in the below video, Greifswald University Library assigned a QR code to a set of documents and asked users to scan this code with the DocScan app before they started digitising documents. Once images were scanned using DocScan and the ScanTent, they were uploaded to our Transkribus platform and became available to view and transcribe in the Transkribus Web interface. The library was then able to create links in its digital repository, connecting archival metadata with the digitised images on Transkribus Web. A future version of DocScan will make it easier for images to be ingested directly into archival systems.

Dirk Alvermann emphasised that this workflow could be incredibly beneficial for small archives who lack funding for digitisation.  Whilst user-generated content is not a substitute for a full digitisation strategy, it has the advantage of creating new resources and engaging interested archival users.

The DocScan app is available to download now, free of charge. The ScanTent is still in development and will be available for sale and hire later in 2019.

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