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Harvard College Library‚€”Report of Nancy M. Cline

Digitization

Digitization

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In addition to building its traditional print collections, the Harvard College Library continues its digitization efforts, building online collections that are openly accessible 24/7 to support instruction and to preserve rare or delicate materials in a range of formats, by offering online surrogates for fragile or highly valuable items. Among the Library’s current digitization projects are:

  • digital scores from Loeb Music Library, this year including the entire holdings of microfilm copies of primary sources for the works of Luca Marenzio;
  • portions of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection;
  • 19th-century Latin American pamphlets;
  • over 750 transcripts of interviews with refugees from the USSR during the Cold War era;
  • Houghton Library’s Digital Medieval Manuscripts and Digital Papyri projects; and
  • Harvard–Yenching Library’s collaboration with several other institutions to digitize Chinese rare books and with the National Library of Korea to digitize manuscript editions in the Korean Rare Book Collection.

Two digitization projects are worthy of individual note this year. The first is the is the Fine Arts Library’s cataloging and digitization of 2,600 Chinese rubbings copied from objects dating from the Quin (221–207 BCE) to the Ming (1368–1644 CE) dynasties. Scholars find these materials useful for studies in Chinese history, biography, epigraphy, Buddhist and Taoist art, fine arts, and calligraphy, and now, they are discoverable through HOLLIS and accessible 24 hours a day in the VIA catalog.

The second is Loeb Music Library’s Sound Directions project, a joint research and development effort conducted with Indiana University and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The scope of the project involved developing best practices and testing emerging standards for archival audio preservation and storage in the digital domain and reporting findings back to the field; establishing at Harvard and Indiana programs for digital audio preservation that demonstrate interoperability and continuing this work into the future; and preserving critically endangered, highly valuable, unique field recordings of extraordinary national interest. The project recently issued its best practices report for audio preservation, which includes a suite of 40 pieces of software all publicly available to the preservation community.

All of the Library’s digitization projects are building blocks in fulfilling our mission. Each one of the projects or achievements improves the library’s ability to serve the research and teaching programs of Harvard and to extend the Library’s resources, wherever possible, to the larger world beyond Harvard. Through many of the digitized collections, there is now the opportunity to experience “history” through images or pamphlets that captured the immediacy of past political events, or through contemporary posters and broadsides from strife-torn countries. The range of materials now available online is growing and it is providing users quality content for their research. Having these items available 24/7 allows students and faculty ready access and, at the same time, enables us to contribute to global scholarship. As just one example, the digitized costume drawings of the Ballet Russe are used not only by students at Harvard’s Institute for Advanced Theatre Training (affiliated with the American Repertory Theatre), but also by others in New England, and by individuals in the Maryinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg.

With all of this activity occurring around it, the Harvard–Google Project continues to run smoothly. Links are being added to HOLLIS on a weekly basis, and the Library is beginning to see an increase in usage. In September, users followed links over 3,000 times from HOLLIS to Google Book Search. Within HCL, scanning of materials is complete in Fine Arts and Cabot Science libraries, ongoing in Widener, and under way in Loeb Music and Harvard–Yenching libraries and in the Government Documents collection in Lamont.