World Digital Preservation Day 2021

Wdpd Illustration

ITMA’s unique image collection now stands at over 21,700 items. Many of these exist in obsolete physical formats only which limits access to this material to those who can visit the ITMA premises in Merrion Square, Dublin. This year the Heritage Council has awarded ITMA a grant to digitise, preserve and make accessible, to archival best practice, some 4,480+ slides, negatives and photographs from the collections of two highly significant figures in Irish traditional music: Breandán Breathnach (1912-1985) an uilleann piper, collector, publisher, writer and organiser & Gráinne Yeats (1925-2013) a professional harper, singer, teacher, arranger, historian and recorded artist.

Positive Negatives Unlocking the ITMA Image Collection: An Overview of ITMA's 2021 Heritage Council Project

In March 2021 ITMA applied to the Heritage Council of Ireland's Community Heritage Grant Scheme for funding to digitise, preserve and make accessible, to archival best practice, negatives, slides and photographs from ITMA's 2021 milestone collections: Cnuasach an Bhreathnaigh (the Breandán Breathnach Collection) & the Gráinne Yeats Collection.

The aim of the scheme is to support capital projects that improve access and inclusion to heritage sites; that apply good heritage practice to the management of places, collections or objects (including buildings). The scheme also supports the purchase of essential equipment. The scheme is intended to enable communities and heritage non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to continue their work in this area or to start new initiatives.

Heritage Council, March 2021

ITMA was successful in this funding application and following the funding announcement in May the project began in earnest. Eneclann were appointed project partners and were tasked with the job of digitising a total of 4,481 images:

857 Photographs (colour and black & white)
2,676 Photographic Negatives (colour and black & white)
948 Photographic Slides (colour and black & white)

Project Timeline and Tasks
Preparation of items

In May and June ITMA worked on preparing the physical slides, negatives and photographs for transfer to the digitisation provider. Items were extract from ITMA’s existing image collection in preparation for digitisation by Eneclann. Each extracted item had to be replaced by a label detailing the item reference number and a description of why the physical item had been removed from its current location. This would make the job of re-filing the original items once digitsted easier. Equipment including Mylar and specialist photographic storage systems were purchased. Items were re-housed in archival mylar pockets & binders and labelled with a unique identifier in preparation for transfer to the digitisation providers. Metadata for uncatalogued images was created in ITMA’s library catalogue Soutron along with a unique identifier for each physical item. Digital repository metadata & identifiers were then exported to itemised spreadsheets and these were provided to Eneclann to be used in the filenames.


A test phase to agree on the digitisation methodology, file specifications and file sizes was conducted and once these were formalised the digitisation process began. Items were scanned by Eneclann with an Epson V700 photo flatbed scanner in 24-bit (colour) or 16-bit (black and white). They were delivered in uncompressed TIFF file format. Slides and negatives were digitised in 1200 dpi, photographs in 400 dpi. JPEG files resolution in 1200 dpi at quality 75 for B&W images, 600 dpi for colour images.

Once the original items were digitised and the digitisation provider had conducted a quality check period, original materials were returned to ITMA in batches. Newly digitised files were returned to ITMA via hard-drive in a number of transfers. MD5 checksums were generated to ensure the integrity of the file prior to any processing. Once this process was complete files were transferred from the hard-drives to the ITMA Network. A further quality check period ensued which involved checking the properties of the files: file format, bit-depth, resolution, compression quality, etc. errors were identified by ITMA and corrected by Eneclann.

Developing a structure for ITMA's Image Collection in AtoM

A structure for the entire ITMA Image Collection was developed for AtoM as this was the first time that a large volume of photographic material had been processed for ingest into ITMA’s digital repository. This structure allows collections to remain together, while also catering for images that are not part of a larger collection. It has been developed to accommodate the full ITMA image collection, and reflects the instrumental hierarchy created for the LITMUS (Linked Irish Traditional Music) project, which will allow for future exposure on the Semantic Web. The metadata structure was tested in ITMA’s Version 5 AtoM sandbox on a number of occasions before the structure was signed off for use.


Finally batches and metadata were created and uploaded to the first stage of ingest into Perpetua, ITMA’s Digital Repository system. Here the files will be preserved and safeguarded for current and future users.

The digital resources from this project will be made available in ITMA's archival catalogue AtoM which is accessible in ITMA's reading room in 73 Merrion Sq, Dublin 2. Where copyright allows these images will be made available online through AtoM and ITMA's digital library in curated galleries here.

For more information on ITMA's digital preservation journey please see:

Arkivum Case Study: Irish Traditional Music Archive / Maeve Gebruers

Preserving Ireland's Traditional Sound Heritage / Fionnuala Parfrey

An Update on DAP, ITMA's Latest Digital Preservation Project / Fionnuala Parfrey

Sound Investments: Rounding Off the DAP Project / Fionnuala Parfrey

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