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The history of Rondebosch Boys High School stretches back to 1897. This longevity and the traditions that have been built up over more than a century is a significant part of the value that school presents to its community. Recently the Old Boys Union at the school took the decision to work with us at Africa Media Online to capture this amazing history digitally and make it available to the whole extended school community on our MEMAT archival digital repository system. They were the first historic school in Cape Town to take the leap!

Rondebosch has hundreds of photographs of sports teams all with the names of the boys in the teams carefully listed below the photograph. The real power of a digitised archive is its searchability. It is wonderful watching Old Boys search for their own name and find all sorts of interesting items and information that they may have forgotten. So what we did to capture all the names from beneath the photographs was that we used Optical Character Recognition software to extract the names. It didn’t work perfectly and we had to do quite a lot of manual fixing up, but it was a step in the right direction for automating photo metadata capture.

Rondebosch's MEMAT powered archival digital repository system is not just a web site but a system that looks after the high resolution files and stores them securely as well as making derivative files available for searching

Rondebosch’s MEMAT powered archival digital repository system is not just a web site but a system that looks after the high resolution files and stores them securely as well as making derivative files available for searching

To get something of what Rondebosch Old Boys will experience try it out yourself on the Rondebosch site. Go to¬†Rondebosch Digital Archive and do a search for “everything”. Then find a name in the associated metadata of one of the files. Finally search by that name and see what comes up.

Something you will notice when you search is that there is a limited amount of material available on the site. Phase 1 of the project included the digitisation of a small selection of school magazines and some historic photographs as well as the design of a MEMAT powered website. Rather than embarking on a large scale funding drive to do it all at once, Rondebosch has decided to gradually chip away at it and consistently build the archive over the next few years building the cost into their budgets. We have been encouraging various institutions to take this approach as it tends to work well from a budgeting point of view as well as proving to be manageable for school staff who have to prepare the material for digitisation and capture metadata once the media is in digital form. As a service provider it also helps us not to have to ramp up to a large-scale project with lots of staff and then when the project is over struggle to keep them employed.

If you would like to discuss this approach further or if you need assistance with building a digital archive for your organisation, please feel free to contact me, David Larsen on editor@africamediaonline.com or call me on 0828297959

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