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Goldwater Library starts publishing digital collections December 16, 2008

Posted by Heather Ford in Features.
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Cover of 'Notice sur les collections africaines du Major J'

Cover of 'Notice sur les collections africaines du Major J'

I had lunch with my dear friend, Joy Garnett, in New York last week. Joy works at the Goldwater Library, the library to the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and is responsible for the fabulous museum blog here (have you ever seen such a great library blog?!)

The Goldwater Library is ahead of the curve in many ways. Apart from creating a great online resource as a ‘springboard for information about the collections & activities of Library, the department, and the museum’, the Goldwater Library has also now begun to digitise its collection for full-text online search. The first book is blogged here and available here (click on the ‘Full text’ link under ‘Link to’ at the top right of the entry to download the PDF scan).

I asked the Head of the library, Ross Day, and Senior Library Associate, Erika Hauser a few questions about their new initiative:

What made you choose this book to start your collection?

Ross Day: A number of factors went into selecting this title. Among them: the work was out of copyright; it includes original photography–the wow factor; it is modestly sized; it is not held by any other institution (according to WorldCat), so while it wasn’t ‘unique’ it was scarce; and there was already scholarly interest shown in this title; and it seems not to have been digitized by anyone as yet. It was also in large measure a test of the existing technology and our ability to master it.

How do you plan on developing the digital collection?

Ross Day: Fully-fledged plans to develop the collection haven’t been put in place. This was to see whether we could initiate our own projects successfully. I think the jury’s still out on that, although I am optimistic. Otherwise we will join up with other digitizing projects already underway in the Museum. An initial survey of the library’s holdings suggest we are not deep in good digitizing candidates — these being works that are both scholarly valuable and unique. We are somewhat deeper in important works not widely held, but we would approach those with caution. The library does not (by and large) collect personal papers and other ephemera.

Is this a first for the Met?

Erika Hauser: There have a been a few other digitization projects initiated by the Met libraries before this one.  The Thomas J. Watson Library was responsible for the first — the Index du Mercure de France 1672-1832 – in March 2007.  Since then the Watson Library has digitized the Kummel Report and, in collaboration with the Frick, catalogs from the Macbeth Gallery (announcement here).  The digitization for these works was outsourced, but there are a few in-house projects in the planning stages.

Also deserving mention are the photo albums from the Cloisters’ Library and Archives that have been digitized, but are only available within the Museum’s network.

It’s so great to see museums making these primary resources available online – especially when you consider how their relevance extends to regions such as West Africa, for example, where people will now be able to access materials in a way that was just impossible before.

Congrats to Joy and the team. Looking forward to more ‘ahead-of-the-curve’ projects!



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