Cultural heritage digitization

The only FADGI, METAMORFOZE and ISO 19264 compliant cultural heritage digitization hub in Malta

Old archival photographic images of Malta & Gozo are highly appreciated and sought after by collectors and the general public, but the conservation and preservation of negatives and prints by the public and private collection owners, unfortunately, has not kept up with the pace of this genuine and all-encompassing interest.

Photographic negatives from the start of photography in the 1840s to 2000, with the advent of digital overshadowing the old film negatives, remain a vital and irreplaceable component of the cultural heritage of the Maltese Islands. They need to be preserved for posterity and research, in the face of ongoing destruction and disposal of under-appreciated photographic negatives and equipment.

Thus, the Malta Image Preservation Archive (MIPA) was founded in 2020 to fulfil this need, with the following aims:

  1. Physically conserve, restore and preserve all photographic collections and equipment pertaining to Malta & Gozo in a safe controlled environment to avoid further damage by humidity, temperature, light exposure and pests.
  2. Digitize all photographic collections to the strictest cultural heritage preservation standards. MIPA is the only FADGI [1], METAMORFOZE [2] and ISO 19264 [3]compliant cultural heritage digitization hub in Malta, using the most sophisticated and state-of-the-art digitization equipment available, on a par with professional photographic cultural heritage preservation institutions and museums worldwide.
  3. Ensure access to all digitized material in an online catalogue, so that the photographic material is publicly searchable and available for research purposes, both by collection and keywords.
  4. Records of contracts for image donations will be maintained in order to credit donors and collaborators whenever images are used.

Cultural Heritage imaging is rooted in the idea of preserving the past for the future. The need for digitization of historic collections in museums and libraries is rapidly growing, with an increasing focus on public access, research, and preservation of information for the future. Institutions with valuable collections often have a dedicated photographic studio for creating photographs of sensitive material, or for producing paper copies for researchers and scholars, protecting the original objects from wear and damage. Preserving the past for the future is often a race against time, as much of the material has a limited lifespan before it is gone forever, thus solutions that enable rapid capture are not only necessary but often crucial.

The scope of cultural heritage digitization is to create a Preservation Digital Object (PDO), which can be used instead of the actual object needing to be handled. This entails that the single time the artifact is imaged, it must be imaged perfectly and to the highest preservation grade standards. All Cultural Heritage collections are unique and diverse. To address this diverse nature, Charles Paul Azzopardi invested in developing, implementing, and delivering specialized and tailored solutions, designed to produce the best output quality, while ensuring material safety and efficient workflow. Charles Paul Azzopardi trained in New York in state-of-the-art digital cultural heritage preservation methods.


Transparent Film and Glass Plate Negatives

This type of collection includes vintage glass plate negatives, medium and large format negatives, transparencies, including 35mm mounted slides, and all other transmissive material. We cater for every size of transparency, slide, or glass plate, from 35 mm strips and mounted slides, through 120 mm, medium and large format glass plate negatives up to 25 by 32 cm glass plate negatives from the 1860s.

The following institutions have entrusted Charles Paul Azzopardi with planning, implementing, and curating the digitization needs of their archives:

  • The Richard Ellis Archive
  • The National Archives of Malta
  • The Richard England Archive
  • Midsea Books
  • The Gerald Formosa Archive
  • The David Wrightson collection
  • The Antonio Said collection
  • The Beato & Robertson collection within the Gennadius Library, Athens

Archives and Manuscripts

An archive and manuscript collection includes documents, drawings, maps, manuscripts, photos, newspapers, musical scores, letters, postcards, and other flat objects in all sizes and shapes. This type of work often requires a “set and forget” workflow where the camera and software are set up so that large numbers of flat objects can be recorded quickly while maintaining high resolution and accurate, consistent color and luminosity. Digitization of books requires special attention to the binding, which can be fragile, and will determine how the material can be treated in the process. This fact can sometimes be the limiting factor when looking for fast capture turnaround. Using a leveled glass plate with the camera set for fixed focus on a copy stand will accelerate the capture process, and photographing both pages at the same time with one or two cameras will increase productivity.

For details and quotes for your cultural heritage digitization projects, kindly contact me at [email protected].

[1] FADGI – Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative

[2] METAMORFOZE is the Netherlands’ national program for the preservation of paper heritage. Starting in 1997, the program is situated in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands).

[3] ISO/TS 19264-1:2017 Photography — Archiving systems — Image quality analysis