Mass Digitization for art libraries and special collections

The Alfred P. Sloan foundation has granted $1 million to the Internet Archive for digitization in 5 US institutions to boost the materials available in the Open Content Alliance (OCA). While the press about this announcement mainly contrasts the OCA to Google Books (and then actually spends more time talking about Google than the announcement!), I feel the more interesting angle to this newsflash is that it represents the first major mass digitization effort to focus on art libraries (the Getty and the Met) as well as special collections materials (Bancroft, Johns Hopkins, Boston Public). Needless to say, these types of materials may warrant a very different approach to digitization than your regular off-the-shelf (no pun intended) mass produced book – I am curious to see how techniques and procedures will have to change to accomodate these rare & special materials while achieving the through-put rate expected of these kinds of efforts.

The New York-based foundation on Wednesday will announce a $1 million grant to the Internet Archive, a leader in the Open Content Alliance, to help pay for digital copies of collections owned by the Boston Public Library, the Getty Research Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The works to be scanned include the personal library of John Adams, America’s second president, and thousands of images from the Metropolitan Museum.

The Sloan grant also will be used to scan a collection of anti-slavery material provided by the John Hopkins University Libraries and documents about the Gold Rush from a library at the University of California at Berkeley.

More on the different types of materials to be made available from the press release itself:

• Boston Public Library: The John Adams collection, which is the complete personal library of the Founding Father, lifelong book collector and second President of the United States.
• The Getty Research Institute: Major collection of books on art and architecture and an alternate collection on the performing arts.
• The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The archive of publications issued by the Metropolitan Museum through the present.
• Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley: Key primary texts documenting the California Gold Rush and Western expansion.
• Johns Hopkins University Libraries: The James Birney Collection of Anti-Slavery materials.

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