+ Preserving our cultural heritage with a smartphone

The READ project is a big proponent of digitisation on demand using smartphones.

A typical mobile phone camera can capture relatively high-quality images of historical documents, which can then be used for preservation, research and even as training data for Automated Text Recognition using our Transkribus platform.

The Computer Vision Lab at the Technical University of Vienna (one of the READ project partners) have created the ScanTent device and the DocScan mobile app to make it easier for people to digitise documents in this way.

The ScanTents

We were happy to receive a positive enquiry about these tools, highlighting their potential to capture unique records that might otherwise be lost.

Stefan Krüger from Germany got in touch after he had digitised his grandfather’s dissertation using his mobile phone and used Transkribus to recognise the text with OCR.  Herbert Rechner completed his dissertation in 1927 just before the rise of the Nazis, on the radical topic of the ‘the sexual causes of offences’.  Although Stefan was never able to meet his grandfather, he is interested in researching his history and is hopeful that Transkribus might be able to help recognise personal handwritten papers one day.

Stefan wrote…

‘After a long search I found the 90 years old dissertation of my grandfather in the German National Library in Leipzig and (in bowing to the performance of my ancestor) digitally reproduced the work. The Transkribus project helped me a lot with its outstanding recognition rate.

I photographed the booklet (about 100 pages) freehand with glass plate and smartphone (CamScanner) and re-set it in InDesign after text recognition.

With this work it became clear to me that we are experiencing a scientific break: everything that is not digitally available in scientific literature will disappear in the cognition-sinking. It is simply no longer taken into account in the scientific knowledge and research process. In the case of topics relating to electronics, space travel and other “more modern” developments, this may be easy to accept.

With all historically relevant things, however, this is painful.

That’s why I find your low-level effort with high-tech solutions very interesting. I would like to test your tent and the app. My thought is that actually (at least) everyone who has enjoyed an academic education should participate in the digital processing of his work and other literature. If you could make such a crowd thing out of it, then a big stock of literature could actually be worked on. So I am happy to participate in your developments in this sense.

With cordial greetings

Stefan Krüger’

Translated from German with www.DeepL.com/Translator

Thank you to Stefan for this feedback, which shows how Transkribus can help individuals to digitise and recognise exceptional historical documents.

A page from Herbert Rechner’s dissertation, digitised with a smartphone. Image credit: Stefan Krüger

If you would like to try digitising documents with a mobile phone, the DocScan app is available to download now free of charge (Android only). The ScanTent is still in development and units should be available for sale over the next few months.

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