In the current information age, image, colour and texture may be as important as words. This paper looks at the divergent uses of ICT and its potential to facilitate access to huge, largely visual collections comprising images as well as text. The focus is the [UK] Board of Trade Design Register that includes nearly 3 million designs registered for copyright protection between 1839 and 1991. This material is held at The National Archives, whose mandate is to preserve government records while facilitating and widening public access to them.

New applications of digital technologies provide opportunities for enhanced access to communities of users who are impeded by text base search. New applications of digital technologies provide opportunities  for expansion of the text based model  to include image, object as well as word.  This paper demonstrate  how the needs of various users could be met through the offer of Digital Epigraphy, Polynomial Texture mapping, and new developments in visual search.

Using the Board of Trade collection as a case history, this paper will report on how technology  can potentially deliver improved access,  create new areas for research,  while improving the overall preservation of the collection.

Nancy Bell, The National Archives