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CERN’s digital memory in colour

Some 200 000 colour stills have been scanned in the interest of preservation and ease of access


A kaleidoscope of digitised memories

A kaleidoscope of digitised memories

In 2017, the IT department launched a large-scale programme to digitise CERN’s multimedia archive of the 20th century,  the results are now beginning to emerge. Around 2000 hours of audio material were digitised in 2019, and now the colour photo collections are available too.

Some 200 000 images in the form of negatives or large and medium-format slides have been converted into TIFF format, for preservation purposes, and into JPG format to be accessed by anyone who is interested, anywhere in the world. After their escapade at the scanning facilities of various specialised contractors, the originals have now been safely returned to the drawers where they live in CERN’s archives.

The recent period of lockdown was put to good use to transfer all the digitised images back to CERN for storage in the photo repository of the CERN document server (CDS). Many images were linked to an existing album in the PhotoLab archives where they now sit alongside the 100 000 black-and-white stills processed in 2014. When an album could not be identified, the images were simply classified by year, month and day of shot, or using any other piece of information available on the sleeves in which they had been stored. A lot of work is still needed to classify these images and to produce captions.

The help of the CERN Library and retirees in the alumni network was enlisted to identify the subject matter, with the aim of documenting the whole chapter of CERN’s history from 1980 to 2000. Whether it’s a photo of technical infrastructure, an aerial view of a construction site or a portrait of a CERN figure, these collections are of such high quality that it’s well worth enriching them with captions for the greater enjoyment of everyone who consults them.


Take a look at the albums already available here: http://cds.cern.ch/collection/Color Images Archive or at  the universe of unidentified photos and feel free to make suggestions ! If you’re a retired member of the CERN personnel, please get in touch with the Alumni Relations office at alumni.relations@cern.ch to find out about future alumni events relating to CERN’s digital memory.

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