Report Back on Heritage Digital Campus 2023

At Africa Media Online we had the privilege of hosting preservation digital imaging expert, Hans van Dormolen at our 2023 Heritage Digital Campus (HDC). Held at the Campbell Collections building at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in Durban from March 6-10, 2023, based on the feedback from participants, we can confidently say HDC 2023 was a success.

Hans van Dormolen of HIP conducting a masterclass on preservation imaging standards. PHOTO: John Robinson /

We had hoped to run it in 2022 but underestimated the effort it took to get it going again after a break of a number of years around COVID. The last HDC we ran was in 2019 also in collaboration with UKZN. We’ve run them since 2005 in different parts of the country in collaboration with different institutions – National Library of South Africa, Iziko Museums of Cape Town, University of Fort Hare, Michaelhouse, Cape Town School of Photography, Market Photo Workshop and others.

Always we have included sessions from a leading international digital imaging expert. Sarah Saunders from the UK has come before, as has Glen Robson from IIIF. Graeme Cookson was a regular until he unfortunately suffered a stroke some years ago. I had been looking for someone to be able to assist us in the technical area of preservation digital imaging for some time. I was aware that the Cape Archives had tried to bring out Hans van Dormolen as he had written the Metamorfoze Guidelines for Preservation Digital Imaging. I then met him in 2017 and again in 2019 at the 2+3D Photography conference at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and we were able to finally pull off his trip out here this year.

Campbell Collections, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, 20230308. Nicki Kirby teaching at the Heritage Digital Campus 2023. PHOTO David Larsen /

The Africa Media Online team, with its decades of practice at the cutting edge of heritage digitisation and digital preservation of African collections taught the first three days of the Campus and Hans was able to come in on the back of that giving participants an understanding of the international standards for preservation digital imaging and what it takes to conform to those standards.

We were somewhat too ambitious in moving two workflows with our capture equipment down to UKZN and then attempting to calibrate the equipment while the class watched. That did not work out well as the conditions were not ideal and some gremlins in the settings of the Capture One CH software frustrated our efforts. By the end of the day, however, we had managed to capture an image that was fully compliant with Metamorfoze strict. The reality is that the setup and calibration of a capture station, to conform to international standards, usually takes a day and sometimes more than a day, and participants got to experience the reality of that. Next time we run the Campus, however, we won’t be as ambitious and participants will rather get to experience the practical hands on of digital capture in our own digitisation centre in Pietermaritzburg.

David Larsen of Africa Media Online (right) and Hans van Dormolen of HIP (left) assisted by Kulu Mushaka of Africa Media Online (far left) teaching on the final day of the Heritage Digital Campus. PHOTO: John Robinson /

We had participants come from museums, galleries, universities, national institutions and the private sector and many were already engaged with or had significant experience in digitisation. In spite of the teething issues, participants were enthusiastic about what they learnt on the Campus overall. Classes on three of the days scored on average 9 out of 10 for course content and facilitation and on two of the days 8 out of 10. Participants gave us useful feedback through our evaluation forms.

Some encouraging comments about the content were:

“Don’t start a digitisation project without attending this workshop first”

“The facilitator is very good and patient with the participants as everyone is allowed to engage”

“A must-have for anyone thinking of doing digitisation”

“Opening my eyes, broadening my vision to what is possible”

“Some incredibly valuable sessions!”

“A very good week – outstanding presentations. Thank you”

“The practical side of it made the whole thing very real and interesting”

PHOTO: John Robinson /

And some encouraging comments about the facilitation were:

“Dave is a very knowledgeable individual in his field. His expertise surprise me (and impressed me). I have learnt a lot.”

“Very clear presentation by Nicky about metadata and schema”

“Do not let David go on retirement!”

“Very interesting and engaging presentation by Deon”

“Dave and Hans were so clear in their explaining…”

Hans van Dormolen discussing correct exposure. PHOTO David Larsen /

Post the Campus we got to spend some days with Hans planning HDC 2024 and tweaking the programme to be even more beneficial to attendees. We also had useful feedback from participants on the practicalities of venue, facilities and equipment which will go into fine-tuning the next time we run it.

That next time is from June 12-14 at St Andrew’s School for Girls when we run the Schools Digital Campus. That Digital Campus covers the same content that HDC covered in its first three days. The first day gives a vital overview of the 16 processes of building a digital archive which is particularly relevant to decision makers from organisations because it gives them the overall vision, awareness and insight to be able to make wise decisions about the steps to build a digital archive for their own institution including knowing pitfalls to avoid, standards to conform to and how to select and engage service providers.

The next two days are practical hands-on sessions giving participants the understanding and skills to work with digital imaging at best practice. These days are valuable for anyone in your organisation dealing with digital files from people in marketing to your foundation team, your alumni association and your library or archive. All need to know how to work with digital files at the right standard from the point of capture (on a camera, video recorder, scanner etc.) to submission to the digital archive.

While the programme is aimed at schools, the content will be applicable for any institution or organisation.

To find out more and sign up please visit the Schools Digital Campus page on our website or go directly to the booking form.

Participants were drawn from national institutions, museums, galleries, libraries, universities and the private sector. PHOTO: John Robinson /