Herts Environmental Records Centre has partnered with Hertfordshire Natural History Society in an ambitious project to digitise nearly 150 years’ worth of records - and they need your help!  

Herts Environmental Records Centre (HERC) has begun a project in partnership with Hertfordshire Natural History Society (HNHS) to digitise historic journals that date back to the 1870s. The journals, which are currently only available in paper format, will be made available online to the general public. HERC, which is hosted by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, has developed bespoke text recognition software to scan the journals and is now looking for volunteers to help complete this project.

 “The text in the older journals is small and the font can’t always be recognised properly by the software. Around 60,000 words have to be looked at and filled in manually,” says Ian Carle, Records Centre Manager at HERC, who has developed the software. “Volunteers don’t need any specific skills or knowledge, just access to a Windows computer.”

Once completed, all journals will be available freely to the public through a fully searchable web database. Tom Day, Head of Living Landscapes at Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust, says: “We are delighted to support this project. The information from these journals will support our conservation efforts in our nature reserves and across the wider landscape in Hertfordshire.”

Ian Carle says: “This is a fantastic project that will not only reveal 150 years of natural history to the public. These journals also contain numerous references to social circumstances in the 19th and early 20th century.”

David Utting, Secretary at HNHS, is convinced that the journals will greatly benefit the work of conservation organisations in Hertfordshire: “There is a mountain of scientific knowledge in these journals, which can currently solely be accessed by manually going through every single edition. By converting all journals into a searchable web database, we will have all of it available in a single click!”

If you’re interested in supporting this project please get in touch with Ian Carle on Ian.Carle@hmwt.org or 01727 858 901.