Sunday, 14 June 2009

Digitisation - the first stage in restoration - spans the ages and the continents

'The worlds oldest book has just become one of the newest.' - quote from Eric Pfanner, New York Times - April 2009

Being a history boffin (some would say a geek!), i was delighted to discover the World Digital Library recently. Having worked for the National Army Museum assisting with building their digital library and photographing their collection, the article i read in the New York Times grabbed my attention.

I have explained below for those of you who have not yet heard about it, and i am excited to see how big and successful this project becomes.

An 11th century book called 'The Tale of Genji' sometimes rumored to be the very first true novel, is one of about 1250 uncopyrighted books, maps, artworks and other cultural items that went on display online back in April. The online display is an international project supported by Unesco and the U.S library congress.

It's a project called the 'World Digital Library'. It aims to promote international and intercultural understanding by using digital technologies to get valuable items and resources online.

The library will draw material from around 30 national libraries all over the world, and is part of a growing number of organisations that are aiming to digitally archive cultural material.

Amongst the others is Google, who has embarked on a mission to scan millions of books into digital form (Google books), Google are also supporting the WDL with a huge grant.

The WDL can be searched in many different ways and includes links to the 192 Unesco members already.

For me personally, this is a very good example of excellent use of the new technology that enables us to digitise valuable and cultural material. Whether it's intended use is to preserve, restore, share or educate, this project begins to prove the importance of being able to digitise various collections and make them accessible worldwide. Everyone should have access to this kind of material, it's our history, and our heritage.

It is clear people are becoming aware of the importance of digitising this precious material, and hopefully the growing recognition of the value of restoration will follow, as people become more concerned with protecting and reviving our pasts.

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