New Projects Boost Digital Library Content

By Ashling, Jim | Information Today, November 2008 | Go to article overview

New Projects Boost Digital Library Content


Ashling, Jim, Information Today


The Organization of American States (OAS) agreed to join and to contribute material to the World Digital Library during September.

The project, planned by the Library of Congress, now has more than 20 partners who have made a commitment to add material to the internet, free of charge, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photos, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The public launch is planned for next April at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

OAS secretary-general Jose Miguel Insulza and Librarian of Congress James Billington signed the contributor agreement on Sept. 11 at the OAS headquarters. The OAS' Columbus Memorial Library, which holds content from the 35 member states, will be the contributing partner. The library houses the world's most complete collection of unique photos, maps, commemorative stamps, archives, and records documenting the history of the organization and its predecessor agencies dating from 1889. Its extensive collection of books and periodicals date from 1535.Today, the library is responsible for the Archives and Records Management Program of the OAS general secretariat and for preserving and indexing OAS official documents, as well as functioning as a traditional library.

Promoting Global Awareness

Insulza welcomed the OAS partnership: "We are extremely proud that the Columbus Memorial Library will become a partner in this project, contributing unique materials from the Americas towards the objectives of the World Digital Library as it develops to promote international and intercultural understanding and awareness."

He added that "Working with the OAS sends an important signal to cultural institutions in all the countries of the Western Hemisphere about cooperation in this project," and it outlines the history of the initiative that has enlisted national libraries and cultural institutions worldwide. Billington says the World Digital Library's goal is "to bring people together by collecting information about different cultures, in a single global undertaking."

Rare Collections

The Wellcome Library in London holds the world's leading collection of books, manuscripts, archives, films, and pictures on the history of medicine from the earliest times to the present day. Founded on the collections of Henry Solomon Wellcome, a Minnesotan who co-founded the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome, the library contains rare materials from ancient and modern Egypt, from papyri to Arabic medical manuscripts and relics from Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1789.

In September, the library partnered with Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) in Egypt to make its Egyptian and Arabic collections available in digital form as part of BA's digital library. Then, the BA's contribution was added to the World Digital Library.

"Without question, the Wellcome Library is one of the most important repositories of treasures relating to the history of medicine in the world," said Ismail Serageldin, director of Bibliotheca, during a recent visit to the Wellcome Library. "For us, this partnership is a major step forward in our vision to make all knowledge available to all. The project will enable manuscripts that are spread in different parts of the world to be virtually reassembled into a complete manuscript.

We have the possibility to make this material available to a new generation of scholars, who have been brought up with the internet, on Facebook and on YouTube, who will be able to find the treasures of the past, in the forms of the present and the future."

Frances Norton, head of the Wellcome Library, explains: "We are delighted to be working with Bibliotheca Alexandrina in this way. Our unique partnership will demonstrate how non-English language digital resources can engage local audiences and experts, deepening our understanding of the materials available here in the UK and making them globally searchable in languages other than English. …

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