Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre’s digitisation project made possible by £1k Museums + Heritage Show prize

By Adrian Murphy

A project to digitise the Hengistbury Head visitor centre’s collection of 10,000 objects has been developing over the past year with the £1,000 M+H Show prize money

Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre (HHVC) has almost completed its digitisation project, which has been made possible by the inaugural Museums + Heritage Show Prize of £1,000, which was spent on equipment such as a camera, tripod, e-storage, storage, monitoring equipment and conservation material as well as documentation resources.

The M+H Show Prize offers the opportunity for any museum, gallery or heritage visitor attraction based in the UK the chance of scooping £1,000 for a project they are working on, with a total budget of no more than £5,000, by simply filling out a short application form (online or at the Show 18-19 May) with a 250 word summary of the project and how the money would be spent.

The digitisation team is made up of curators from HHVC and Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum (RCAGM), the Countryside Manager and a team of five trained heritage volunteers. The aims and objectives of the project were to provide the adequate environment for the collections, to design and to prepare the online catalogues for the HHVC artefacts and archives material.

“Our team at Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre were thrilled to win a £1000 grant towards our digital project,” said Councillor Lawrence Williams, Cabinet Member for Tourism, Leisure and the Arts at Bournemouth Council. “We are already introducing 100,000 visitors a year to our fantastic collections at the centre but with this additional money we were able to bring our ambition to life and open up our important collection to a worldwide online audience. Thank you Museum + Heritage Show for helping to make this possible”

The first priority was to begin the digitisation process of the photographic archives and artefact with the new equipment and was carried out in line with the sector’s best practices and recommendations and in accordance with SPECTRUM 4.

“We are finalising a Service Level Agreement with the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum (RCAGM) which will allow for the remaining loan of the artefacts to the HHVC. The loan process is expected to start this summer,” said curator Gabrielle Delbarre. “A new and upgraded HHVC website will also be launched and will present an online narrative of our collections. In addition to the website, the archives will be available on two dedicated study stations at the centre as part of the archaeology gallery.”

Delbarre said the project is the first step towards development of a future digital museum at HHVC. “The results will be improved access to our collections for academics (researchers and students) and opportunities for developing future multidisciplinary collaborations and projects. It allows the public, for the first time, ‘behind the scenes’ access to objects that cannot be put on display due to their fragile condition.”

The digitisation project has also enabled the visitor centre to deliver a programme of temporary exhibitions and as a result of the digitisation of the archives, an exhibition of the earliest maps describing Hengistbury Head is opening at the HHVC this summer.