The Bodleian Library builds an arch to the future

18 August 2008

Bod_logoThe Bodleian Library has recently been awarded a grant of over £500,000 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to ensure the preservation and accessibility of digital personal papers - the contemporary versions of manuscripts created by politicians, writers, scientists and intellectuals that are in danger of being lost to future scholarship.

The three-year project, named futureArch, will enhance the work of the library through technical development, innovation in service delivery, and through supporting both curators and researchers in dealing with the demands of digital materials.

The Bodleian Library’s collections of archives and manuscripts are among the most important worldwide in many academic fields including history, politics, literary studies, science and medicine. One of the Library’s most important areas of collecting is in British politics of the 20th and 21st centuries, which represents a significant portion of the UK’s documentary heritage in this field.

The collections are increasingly in ‘hybrid’ form, comprising both traditional paper and newer audio-visual and digital formats. The focus of this project is to develop a system to enable the library to collect, manage, preserve and deliver to researchers these complex collections of papers and digital materials such as email, word-processed files, digital images as well as more traditional journals, notebooks and letters.

The project will also facilitate improvements to reader services by providing access to archives in digital form; integrating finding aids for digital and non-digital collections; and exposing metadata about our collections to web 2.0 services. These new developments will give students and researchers greater opportunity to experience primary sources.

Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections, Bodleian Library, said: ‘The Bodleian Library’s collections, both physical and digital, are a major resource for the scholarly community. The support of the Mellon Foundation will enable the Library to develop its processes and make available for researchers the papers of significant politicians, writers, and others for the benefit of scholars now and in the future. The launch of futureArch will enable us to bridge the analogue-digital divide.’

Examples of the Bodleian Library’s hybrid collections: The Conservative Party Archive, The Papers of Baroness Nicholson, The Literary Archive of the Clutag Press, John Kufuor Papers, The Papers of Barbara Castle, The papers of Sir Isaiah Berlin, The Edmund Dell papers, UN Career Records Programme Archives.
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