Our digital reading room is open! 
A webservie for access to digital archive material

Den digitala läsesalen som Centrum för Näringslivshistoria nu lanserar finns på arkivet.naringslivshistoria.se.

We now open our digital reading room, a new web service for easy searches in digital archive materials. Open corporate archives are accessible directly, just by creating a user profile. To search materials belonging to a company, just ask us to obtina persmission —just like we’ve always done in our physical reading room.

The Centre for Business History in Stockholm manages over 85,000 linear meters of historical material on behalf of Swedish companies. The parts of the archives that are digital, either scanned or born digital, are now made accessible via a “digital reading room,” a new web service available at arkivet.naringslivshistoria.se.

“For 50 years, we have provided materials to researchers in our physical reading rooms. Today, increasingly larger parts of the deposits we manage are digital, and these can now be searched directly from one’s computer or mobile,” says Anders Sjöman, head of client projects and communication at the Centre for Business History.

Companies that keep their archives at the Centre thereby gain even easier access to their materials. The same applies to researchers, who gain easier access to the archival materials they need for their research.

The amount of material in the digital reading room will be expanded continuously. With a (free) user account, users gain immediate access to many so called “open archives”, primarily from historical companies that no longer exist. To then search in materials belonging to a company, users requests permission via the Centre — which is the same process that has always been in place for searches in physical deposits.

A robust and complex solution – made available as open source

Flexible rights management was of course a key requirement when building of the digital reading room. Equally important was the ability to perform full-text searches in the documents, many of which are often scanned as image files.

“We have implemented image recognition, which separates photos from text, and then applied advanced OCR scanning so that the text is interpreted, including signs and notes,” says Anders Bornholm, senior developer at Iteam, who built the digital reading room.

Conceptually, Iteam’s solution is built on top of the e-archive platform for long-term preservation that the Centre for Business History already had. To avoid being locked into a specific e-archive platform in the future, the code for the digital reading room has been written to also be compatible with other e-archive platforms.

The codebase for the digital reading room will be made available as open source, so that other archive institutions can use it if they wish.

The technology behind the digital readingroom. 

To build the digital reading room, open source-otpions were selected, to make the solution scalable, cost efficient and secure:

  • React and Node.js for front-end and back-end development.
  • Tesseract and Tensorflow for image recognition and handling handwritten documents. 
  • Elasticsearch for searches and indexing of large datasets.
  • Postgres for secure and powerful database management.
  • Kubernetes to orchestrate and manage container-based applications, in order to secure the system’s scalability and reliability.

Project teams

Many have contributed to building the digital reading room during 2023 and 2024. Core team at the Centre for Business History were: 

At Iteam, the core project team was :

  • Anders Norrback Bornholm
  • Johanna Månsson Grahn 
  • Jonna Hjern
Anders Sjöman, Centrum för Näringslivshistoria (till vänster) med Anders Norrback Bornholm, Iteam, i en av arkivgångarna hos Centrum för Näringslivshistoria. (Foto: Linus Sundahl Djerf.)