World Ship Society - HOME - Archive Digitisation Project
A rich resource for ship lovers and family historians
The World Ship Society Archive Digitisation Project
For a direct link to the new Project's website, click here.
Founded over 60 years ago, the World Ship Society brings together some 4000 members worldwide who are interested in ships, past and present. Its monthly journal Marine News and its quarterly journal Warships are bywords for accurate information. Its hundred-plus published books are regarded as definitive key sources of information on practically every ship type. The latest book on Armed Merchant Cruisers appeals both to those interested in merchant ships and in naval vessels. Written by members who have often made a lifetime study of their subject, they are more deeply researched than can be done by authors making a living out of writing.
Members frequently donate or bequeath their collections and research material to the WSS. Such material is deposited in its archive at Chatham Historic Dockyard. Although such material can be consulted by members travelling to Chatham, this is not practical for the bulk of members - several hundred of whom reside in Australia! Hence this project to use modern technology to make such material accessible electronically. The volunteer members who run Chatham are already overstretched, so new resources are needed to achieve this goal.
Published works are only the tip of the iceberg. Authors will have researched their subject in much greater depth, for example gathering information on a ship's lifetime movements. Such detailed information is of interest not only to ship buffs but to the millions of family historians researching the ship on which their great-grandfather sailed to the New World.
Noel Bonsor's acclaimed "North Atlantic Seaway" chronicles a century of passenger shipping on the prestigious route from Europe to North America. But he had space for only a few lines on each ship, which may have made several hundred voyages and thousands of port calls in its lifetime. Bonsor painstakingly recorded all such movements in scores of loose-leaf files, listing each owner, ship, port and date. Such a collation exists nowhere else, hence making the material of Bonsor's bequest more accessible would help thousands of inquirers.
Other WSS members have donated material on naval vessels (e.g. Jim Colledge), or on sailing vessels, while others have created card indexes such as E C Talbot-Booth on ship recognition, or more recently have compiled databases. The Society has over a million ship photographs, the largest such collection in the world, so there is a huge resource potentially available.
To make the riches at the WSS Chatham Archive more widely available.
To make the WSS website the 'first port of call' for such detailed ship information.
To become financially self supporting once such 'critical mass' is achieved, from sales of CDs, photographs and 'pay to view'.
It is now possible to scan such primary paper-based material, whether typewritten or handwritten. With modern hardware and software, the images can be captured, stored, indexed and displayed electronically. But the potential volume of material and the IT and website skills required need a dedicated resource.
A five-year project is planned, which will not only make the Bonsor material available as the first sub-project, but go on to capture other equally well researched records. It will also be possible to create electronic versions of sixty years of Marine News and forty years of Warships, for which there is a continuing demand for back numbers, e.g. on CD.
If sufficient funds can be raised, a small team will be recruited with the necessary specialist expertise to create this unique source of ship information.
A typical page of Bonsor's meticulous researches into liner movements. This page illustrates one page on the American Line in 1911.
While the WSS Venture Fund is being used to defray some of the costs of the Chatham Archive, it is insufficient for a project of this size. We have therefore set a target of £70,000 over five years, to be raised both from WSS members and from sympathetic outside bodies.
Please make any cheques payable to "World Ship Society", or you may find it more convenient to make your donation by credit card. We are able to take payment by MasterCard and Visa cards. Please send the following details and your payment to: Ian Buxton, 12 Grand Parade, Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear, NE30 4JS, United Kingdom.
I/we would like to support the WSS Archive Digitisation Project with a contribution of:
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16-digit Card Number _______ - _______ - _______ - _______
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Archive Digitisation Progress Report — February 2009
The new Archive Digitisation Committee is very grateful to members for their support — financial and moral — following the appeal in September Marine News and the earlier appeal to Life Members. Over £20000 has been raised to date, allowing the ADC to commission an IT company to develop image capture protocols. These procedures are being developed initially for scanning back numbers of Marine News and some of the late Noel Bonsor's liner shipping movement files — an example of which was on the appeal leaflet (illustrated in the details posted above).
The protocol covers the scanning procedures and standards needed for consistent images and website compatibility. Originals may be printed (e.g. MN), handwritten (e.g. Bonsor) or typed (e.g. indexes and research notes). ADC is now seeking volunteers to scan such original material. A typical home PC and scanner and Internet connection should be sufficient to produce the individual images and group them into files. An editor will liaise with volunteers, supply the original material for scanning, check the resulting files and upload them to the website together with associated indexes. There are over 40 unique loose-leaf volumes of Bonsor notes arranged by liner company, so probably best if handled by UK members. But back numbers of MN (probably 1970s and earlier) could be supplied anywhere in the world in annual sets, with each month's page images grouped to form a single file, together with that year's index — many were prepared by the late Cliff Parsons. If you are able to help with such scanning, please get in touch with ADC Chairman, Ian Buxton at Ian.Buxton@worldshipsociety.org
The archive website itself will be developed during 2009, offering both sample images and as much of MN and Bonsor as has been scanned. It is planned to move on to other material at Chatham such as the late Jim Colledge's naval notes, which are being reviewed by the Naval Committee, and photographs from WSS Photo Library, probably the older and scarcer ones. Various levels of access will be provided: free to WSS members, free to all, and pay-to-view/download — members at a lower rate of course. Payment mechanisms will need to be set up in conjunction with the IT company and WSS membership lists.
ADC has also been able to contribute to the cost of running the Chatham store for 2009, as have some generous individual members.