An improved, semi-automatic method for analysing the cards from the widely used Campbell- Stokes sunshine recorder is described. We show how the application of inexpensive commercial equipment and practices can simply and robustly build an archive of high-quality card images and manipulate them into a form suitable for easy further analysis. The method improves on previous, mostly manual, processes simplifying and automating steps into a process capable of handling thousands of cards in a practical time-scale. A prototype method of extraction of data from this archive is then tested by comparison with records from a co-located pyrheliometer at a resolution of the order of minutes. The comparison demonstrates that the Campbell-Stokes recorder archive contains a time series of downwelling solar-irradiance-related data with similar characteristics to that of the more sophisticated, but less widely used, pyrheliometer. The new method offers a practical way to exploit the worldwide use of the Campbell-Stokes recorder to create a time series of datae related to the levels of solar irradiance and atmospheric aerosols loading reaching back over 100 years from the present day.