Digitisation of Traditional Format Library Materials

Frank Hurley negative collection

Project Brief | Cataloguing guidelines


To provide access through the Library’s catalogue to the 10,862 negatives in the Hurley collection.


  • Create individual catalogue records for approximately 7,800 negatives by having MARC records created from the data recorded in the Hurley database
  • Create individual catalogue records for approximately 2,200 negatives by using templates and a subject guide list
  • Digitise negatives
  • Link images to catalogue records
  • Load images to Pictures Catalogue and PictureAustralia

Description of the material to be digitised

This is a significant and very large collection of pictures taken by Frank Hurley, explorer and photographer (1885-1962), between 1911 and 1962. The subjects covered include Antarctica (Hurley was the official photographer on three Antarctic voyages, including the ill-fated Shackleton expedition), World Wars 1 and 2 (Hurley was an official photographer), travels in Papua and New Guinea, Egypt and the Middle East, Australian life, scenery, industries, social life and customs.

The majority of the collection is either sheet film (5,000 items, 2¼ or 6x4, b/w negatives, stereo negatives, and colour plates) or glass negatives and positives (2,500 items), but there are also lantern slides, 35mm colour and b/w film, and stereo strips.

Nitrate material is being removed by staff in Preservation Services and sent to the Nitrate Store in Mitchell. This material will be digitised as the final stage, probably during May-June 2002.

Preservation, care and handling guidelines

DISCLAIMER: The National Library of Australia disclaims liability for the use of the information provided in this page. The guidelines have been produced to aid Library staff in the digitisation of collection material. The National Library of Australia accepts no responsibility for the loss occasioned as a direct or indirect result of the use of the information in these guidelines.

There are approximately 10,000 items in 373 boxes/containers comprising

The collection is housed in the Preservation Cold store. Approximately 50% of the collection has been listed, this is ongoing.


The APS5 (Preservation) within the Digitisation Project surveyed the collection and prepared the following care and handling notes.

General care and handling rules:

Treatments: Most of the plastic negatives will not be treated as they are beyond treatment. Please ensure you are wearing gloves when handling these items and that your area is well ventilated.

Cracked or lifting emulsions should be given to a conservator to treat. Please do not take the plate out of the paper wrapping when damaged. Please place the damaged negative in a mylar pocket and then in the green polypropylene box provided, together with a treatment form.

Cleaning: Fingerprints and smudges on glass negatives should be cleaned with ethanol using a cotton swab. Clean the non-emulsion side only!

Scanning plastic negatives: Please use the glass tray when scanning plastic negatives and ensure the glass tray is securely in place.

Scanning glass negatives:

Cropping: Please crop to the edge of glass negative plates, plastic negatives - leaving a 1mm border (maximum 2mm).


NLA staff Other
Pictorial Collection Researchers interested in Antarctica, Papua New Guinea and Australian military forces
Digitisation Team Photographers and Hurley fans
Digitisation Steering Committee Institutions with related collections, subject interest
Preservation Services Institutions with Hurley holdings
Public Programs Public
Special Materials Cataloguing  

Program of work

Item Responsibility Date completed or time period
General condition survey Preservation Services 13 March 2001
Decide on descriptive record content and write specification for creation of MARC records from Hurley database Digitisation Project team March-September 2001
Decide on cataloguing treatment for items not on Hurley database Special Materials Cataloguing Unit August 2001
Create cataloguing template and guidelines Special Materials Cataloguing Unit August-October 2001
Ongoing preservation assessment, particularly to separate nitrate material from the rest Preservation Services September 2001-
Deliver nitrate material to Nitrate Store Preservation Services
Pictorial Section
November 2001-
Deliver non-nitrate material to Digitisation Preservation Services October 2001-
Cataloguing guidelines session with Digitisation staff Special Materials Cataloguing Unit 15 October 2001
Create Pictorial Manager batches Digitisation Project team 15 October 2001-
Create and review catalogue records Digitisation Project team 15 October 2001-
Carry out preservation treatment on negatives requiring it Digitisation Project team leaders October 2001-
Scan negatives Digitisation Project team 16 October 2001-
Quality check images Digitisation Project team leaders 17 October 2001-
Deliver non-nitrate material back to Cold Store Digitisation Project team November 2001-
Check MARC record creation specification and raise task with IBM GSA to carry out job Special Materials Cataloguing Unit October 2001
Check accuracy of catalogue records created by IBM GSA Special Materials Cataloguing Unit October-November 2001
Organise extraction of records created on Kinetica by IBM GSA to be loaded to ILMS Special Materials Cataloguing Unit November 2001
Strip metadata from images and put in spreadsheets Information Technology Branch October 2001-
Rename images and move to Pictorial’s Complete folder Information Technology Branch October 2001-
Check metadata spreadsheet Digitisation Project team October 2001-
Change batch status on Pictorial Manager Digitisation Project team October 2001-
Create derivatives & rename for Pictorial Manager Information Technology Branch October 2001-
Load images to Pictures Catalogue Information Technology Branch October 2001-
Deliver nitrate material to Digitisation Preservation Services? May 2002?-
Deliver nitrate material back to Nitrate Store Digitisation Project team/Pictorial Section May 2002?-


Project owner/Driver David Toll and Margy Burn
Project manager Erica Ryan
Key information sources Pictorial Manager, Preservation Services, Digitisation Team, IT
  1. Size of collection means cataloguing and digitising in blocks so that staff are not limited to one collection for months. It is planned to divide the collection into a number of blocks, all to be completed by end June 2002.
  2. Delays in creation of MARC records from Hurley database mean cataloguing and scanning have to be started with material towards end of collection.
  3. Some acetate negatives have deteriorated considerably causing problems with atmosphere in work area and also problems in actually scanning them.
  4. Large variety in sizes of negatives means that trays supplied with scanner cannot be used and other methods of placing and holding negatives for scanning must be tried.
  5. Nitrate negatives may need to be catalogued and scanned in area with exhaust fans.
  6. Cold Store numbering was confusing as prefix was identical to accession number prefix. Preservation Services agreed to change the Cold Store prefix and they will have to relabel all the Hurley boxes in the Cold Store.


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