Digitising The Pledge

For the last two months, UC CEISMIC has been working with the Christchurch City Council, New Zealand Micrographic Services, and Christchurch lawyer, Garth Gallaway, to archive The Pledge. Working with this material has been a unique experience for UC CEISMIC since usually we work with born-digital material-- photographs, videos, and documents that originated in a digital form. The Pledge, on the other hand, consists of approximately 1600 physical pages of handwritten comments and signatures bound into eight books.

The cover of Book One of The Pledge

The Pledge was a project led by Garth Gallaway in collaboration with Rainbow Print, Spicers Paper, Newstalk ZB, Cover to Cover, adgraphix, iSite, and The Press. Several books were made available in locations around Canterbury for six weeks from 22 March 2011, exactly one month after the 22 February 2011 earthquake. People could pledge their commitment to Canterbury and the rebuild of Christchurch by signing the books and leaving a comment.

With over 25,000 signatures and comments, the books captured the huge number of people, both from Canterbury and further afield, who wanted to express their love for the city. It is a snapshot of the goodwill that flourished in Christchurch after the 22 February 2011 earthquake and is thus an important part of our heritage. For this reason, UC CEISMIC was approached and asked to digitise the books, ensuring that the public would have access to the material at all times.

The digitisation was done over two weeks with the help of New Zealand Micrographic Services (NZMS). NZMS specialises in digitisation, text conversion, microfilming and online hosting. They are currently located at the Canterbury Collections Recovery Centre at the Air Force Museum and have the best commercial suite of scanners and digital cameras in the country.

Digitising The Pledge. Left, Jo Condon, NZMS Southern Regional Manager. Right, Lucy-Jane Walsh, UC CEISMIC Digital Content Analyst.

At NZMS, each book was carefully taken apart. Then the covers were photographed on a Cruse scanner (see above image) and the pages scanned on a Fujitsu, one by one, before the books were put back together. Next, all addresses and signatures were digitally removed from the scanned pages, in order to protect the privacy of the people who signed The Pledge.

A digitised page of The Pledge

Future plans for The Pledge include making the pages fully searchable.  This could be done either by transcribing the documents or by crowd sourcing more descriptive metadata.

For now, we are proud to be able to make The Pledge live on UC CEISMIC today, in time for the third anniversary of the 22 February 2011 earthquake. We are honoured to have been part of this project, ensuring that future generations and researchers will be able to look back at such an important moment in Christchurch's history.