Recent Digitization Projects from Librarians and Archivists: A Great Example of our Expertise

I haven’t written a post in a few weeks so I thought I would return with a short post highlighting some of the great work that is being done by librarians and archivists to preserve both print and born digital material. Enjoy!

The Salman Rushdie Archive (Emory University)

The Salman Rushdie Archive is an excellent example of what librarians and archivists can do with born digital material. In this case, Emory has chosen to preserve all of Rushdie’s  manuscripts, drawings, journals, letters and photographs. What is amazing about this collection is that they have also created the actual digital environments (several computers) that Rushdie used to produce his work. This project is the most complete set of born-digital records to date (according to Emory), and provides a gold standard for how libraries and archives can raise the bar to provide important historical information to patients. Take a look at the video below to get a glimpse of what the digital environments look like. His computers even replicate crashes like they would when he was using them!

I love seeing the old Mac iOS recreated with all of Rushdie’s records on them. As artists, authors and researchers continue to use material electronically, those who abide by strong record keeping practices will hopefully be able to have their material preserved as they used it. The Emory project is the first step in the right direction.

National Library of Medicine Exhibition Programs

The National Library of Medicine’s History of Medicine Division has done an excellent job promoting the vast amount of material they have within their library. Through the exhibition programs webpage, users have an opportunity to browse through historical images on everything from Shakespeare and the Four Humors to Forensic Views of the Human Body. By providing beautifully scanned images and comprehensive historical information, these exhibitions provide an opportunity for the general public to observe and learn about important material related to the history of medicine.

Balinese Digital Library Collection

Available through the Internet Archive, the Balinese Digital Library provides access to manuscripts that are comprised of everything from  religion, holy formulae, rituals, family genealogies, law codes, treaties on medicine, arts and architecture, calendars, prose, poems and magic! What I have found most interesting about this collection is that it contains information on important issues such as medicines and village regulations that are used in daily practice. It is also important to note that this collection is the first complete literature of the Balinese.

The Internet Archive is now home to 10 petabytes of data and is an excellent resource if you’re interested in historical material.

Wellcome Collection

Supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Wellcome Collection provides the public with an opportunity to read articles, view images and watch videos on a variety of subjects related to the human body. The collection is separated into the following categories: Life, Genes & You; Mind & Body; Sickness & Health; Time & Place; Science & Art; and Education.

This collection has so much excellent material I don’t even know where to begin. As a visitor to the site, you have an opportunity to look at everything from Crick’s preliminary sketch of DNA, to fabulous satirical medical images. Take the time to explore this site, I’ve spent hours on it already while writing this post. 

I’ve tried to highlight my favourite examples of library and archival projects here to provide a glimpse of the great work we do to provide access to historical material. I am excited to see what projects come from the inspiration of seeing the Emory Salman Rushdie Archive, as I think recreating the digital environment is an excellent idea for future collections. Science and medical researchers are exclusively using digital formats to store, share and interpret data. It is vital that as librarians and archivists we work with these groups to manage their data and preserve it in ways that will allow us to present it in a coherent way in the future. How else can we be sure that this data will be available to people in the future? More to come on this in my next post! 

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2 thoughts on “Recent Digitization Projects from Librarians and Archivists: A Great Example of our Expertise

  1. Nice post Kevin. Always nice to see a few of the highlights in the digitization realm. Especially Rushdie’s computer. How seldom do we consider the digital tools that people would have used to create digital materials.

    1. Thanks Adam! I hope the recreation of digital environments becomes more standard in library/archival collections. My fear is that it probably takes a lot of work to complete, and very few institutions will have the resources to actually do it. My hope is that Emory will share their approach with other library organizations.

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