Cause Paper Colloquium 27 July 2011.

Colloquium announcement:

Cause Papers unwrapped: exploring the resource value and access challenges of the records of the ecclesiastical courts.

 A one-day colloquium for archivists and records custodians to share experiences of recent cause paper digitisation projects and exploring ways to increase the usability of church court records.

Wednesday 27 July, 2011: Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York.

For more information contact Sara Slinn,

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Dr Philippa Hoskin, University of Lincoln, has been awarded a UROS (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme) grant to work with Lincoln undergraduate, Diane Ranyard, on the project ‘Geography, gender and reputation in the Church Courts of York, 1400-1550’. The project will make extensive use of the York cause papers.

These grants, supported by the Higher Education Academy and part of the University of Lincoln’s ‘Student as Producer’ programme, provide scholarships for students to work alongside staff in the production of work of academic content and value, thus gaining experience of academic research.

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Main series of 18th century cause papers completed

This week the team imaging the eighteenth century cause papers finished the main series (archive refenece CP.I.), which is a good milestone to have reached at this stage in the project. The next 18th century section to tackle will be the series of cases about testamentary business – basically contested wills (archive reference Test.CP.) and after that the team will be working on the Dean and Chapter Cause Papers for the 18th century.

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A chance to draw breath

With a month and a half’s imaging work completed we are going to take the opportunity next week to go back over our quality control logs and replace any images that are below standard.

As the images have been listed on spreadsheets and then have been cropped, the team have been making a note of cause papers they’d like to have another go at because, for instance, the camera focus was not quite right or because there is a document weight placed in an un-ideal position. Next week team will be going going over their lists and replacing poor images with better ones. We are doing well for time so we can take some extra time arranging any tricky documents. Parchment documents can be particularly difficult to get flat and can need significant numbers of weights at their edges.

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About the Project

The case papers for the church courts held at York are an essential source for anyone interested in the social, economic, physical, emotional and legal environment of England’s past. From the 14th century until the mid-19th, these paper and parchment records detail thousands of cases which came before the courts dealing with a variety of offences: adultery, slander, heresy, non-payment of tithes and drunkeness amongts many others.

Between 1 March -31 July 2011 this project will image over 13,000 of these court cases, known as cause papers, from the period 1500-1800, and attach image files to the exisiting on-line catalogue available at After the formal part of the project is over the methodologies developed during project will enable us to continue adding additional images to the catalogue, from before 1500 and after 1800.

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Project image storage

We estimated that the storage needs for this project would be large, although as yet we are not quite sure how large. Pilot work before we began showed that the scanner, creating TIFFS at 300dpi, would probably create in the region of 30 GB  a day. (A typical, individual image, after cropping, is c. 42MB.)

Now the project is underway it is possible to see how the cameras perform in relation to the scanner.  A typical RAW file from a camera is about 12.5 MB, once processed into a TIFF is is 41MB, reassuringly similar to those TIFFs created by the scanner. However, the cameras, as we thought might be the case, have a slightly lower through-put than the scanner, so we are getting slightly fewer files per day from then, compared to the scanner.

A rough calculation would give a maximum project total of just under 9TB for storage of the TIFFs, if the cameras worked at the same speed as the scanner. The cameras being slightly slower, I suspect we will be closer to 8TB. However, this won’t be the total of the storage space needed. Operationally, the plan is to keep a set of archive images on one server, and then split off a series of derivative images, for access, onto different storage.

More detailed calculations will follow when the first fortnight’s work has been cropped, checked and uploaded to the networked file space.


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Into the second week

After a breathless first week we can take stock of where we’ve got to. We started on the first day with 10 project staff who are working hours which make up the rough equivalent of six full-time people. The digitisation work has been split down into three teams. Team 1 are dealing with the 16th century cause papers using a camera/copy-stand set-up, Team 2 are dealing with the 17th century cause papers using an identical equipment set-up, and Team 3 are dealing with the 18th century, using an SMA 21 overhead scanner. Each team is imaging, and then compiling spreadsheet logs of their work which relate image file references with Cause Paper references. The scanner is producing TIFFs, which makes the workflow quite straightforward. The cameras are producing RAW – which are then being processed through Adobe Lightroom into TIFFs. I think we are almost there with workflow, although of course as different processes bed down and efficiencies are discovered there will be room for tweeking so we make most efficient use of time and equipment.

Storage is the next think to nail down properly. At the moment we are backing up on C-drives and desktop additional hard-drives. Just waiting for our secure network drive to be made available – which should be very soon. We’ve asked for 1TB to start with, with more to come soon afterwards.

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Welcome to the Project

We are delighetd to announce that we have been successful in securing funding from JISC to help us take forward our plans to increase access to the collection of York Cause Papers. In 2010 a detailed, on-line catalogue was launched, which opens up the records to far more detailed research enquiry. Thanks to the money from JISC, under the JISC eContent programme 2011, we are now able to develop the resource by attaching images of the record to the catalogue. The imaging of the documents will take place between 1 March and 31 July 2011. Keep checking this site for more news about when the images will become available on-line.

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