1.5m donation from Dr L Polonsky to support Bodleian's digitisation programme

17 June 2010

Darkness-and-distance-webA gift of £1.5million has been given to the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford to support library digitisation initiatives as well the digital imaging facilities in the redeveloped New Bodleian Library - to be known as the Weston Library upon reopening in 2015.

This important donation by Dr Leonard Polonsky, an alumnus and major benefactor of Lincoln College, Oxford, marks another step forward in the £78 million redevelopment of the New Bodleian Library which will transform it into a major research centre and a significant new cultural centre. With Dr Polonsky’s support, the Weston Library will feature a state-of-the-art studio for digital imaging where the most valuable and fragile printed books and papers from the Bodleian can be scanned and made accessible online. Additionally, Dr Polonsky’s donation will transform a range of materials in the Bodleian to promote interdisciplinary research and scholarship. Among items selected for digitisation in 2010- 2011 will be Oxford theses, Islamic manuscripts, and a portion of Oxford’s Genizah fragments. The Bodleian’s winter exhibition, Shelley’s Ghost: Reshaping the Image of a Literary Family, which opens in December 2010, will be accompanied by an online exhibition made possible through the Polonsky gift. Future years will bring support for a variety of digitisation initiatives in the humanities and social sciences.

Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: 'Oxford has been at the forefront in digitising its collections and making them accessible to the world of internet users, yet only a small fraction of its vast holdings have been scanned. Dr Polonsky’s generous gift allows us to extend our capacity and to partner with humanities scholars and others for whom developments in digital scholarship are unleashing creativity and transforming the investigation of the historic documents.'

Dr Polonsky said of his donation: 'Our inherited notions of "library"-- its architecture, scale, content and services-- will undergo quite extraordinary change over the coming years as digitisation extends its impact. Being able to assist in this evolution at Oxford and to encourage international collaboration in this enterprise is exhilarating. I am really delighted to share in this adventure with the Bodleian.'

Dr. Leonard S Polonsky is the Executive Chairman of Hansard Global plc, an international financial services institution. He grew up in New York and is a graduate of New York University and the Sorbonne, Paris, and attended Lincoln College, Oxford. He taught languages in Heidelberg for several years, before embarking upon his business career. He began working in financial services in New York in 1955, and has been active in the investment and insurance field internationally since then. Dr Polonsky, a citizen of the UK, is a Trustee of foundations bearing his name in the UK and the US and is involved in a broad range of charitable enterprises focused on higher education in the humanities and social science.

The Bodleian Libraries are making their collections, books, ephemera and other material available in digital format by working in collaboration with partners including ProQuest, ARTstor, JISC, Google and the Alexander Street Press. Examples of Bodleian digital collections include Electronic Enlightenment, Medieval Manuscripts and Early Printed Books, The John Johnson Collection: An Archive of Printed Ephemera, Shakespeare Quartos Archive, Digital Shikshapatri, The Book of Curiosities and Bodleian Broadside Ballads.

Dr Polonsky’s gift is a significant contribution to Oxford Thinking: The Campaign for the University of Oxford, the largest fundraising campaign in European university history, with a goal of a minimum of £1.25 billion to support world-class research, teaching and facilities for the university and its colleges. With this donation the Oxford Thinking campaign has raised over £800m, less than six years after fundraising began.

Picture: The Frankenstein manuscript will be featured in the Shelley's Ghost online exhibition

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