Digitization in Japan

Across the US Thanksgiving holiday I was privileged to give the concluding talk at a symposium on library, archive, museum digitization sponsored by the Keio University Media Center (libraries). They have been RLG members since 2002 and have regularly invited me to keynote these gatherings. There is much more interaction and coordinated activity among the libraries, museums and archives than there was even last year. It’s impressive. I suspect that Keio’s decision to become a Google Book Search partner will spur even more activity. (They’ve indicated that they’ll be cooperating with the WorldCat e-synchronization project. )

The symposium was surprisingly informative (considering that I had to hear it through an interpreter; who was very good even in the swirl of professional jargon) and well attended at over 110 participants. Highlights for me were:

Remarkable progress at the National Archives of Japan (Digital Archive here) and the Museum of Modern Art in collaborative digitization and joint disclosure (although they don’t know that word).

Good examples of an approach to letting communities build their own archive and curate it later from a Keio Digital Media staffer (the 100th anniversary of Japanese immigration to Brazil).

An example of an archive creating an interim product for scholars; the Tatsumi Hijikata butoh archive at Keio commissioning one of the master’s students to video each of his circa 2000 named dance forms. More about this in a separate post.

And an example of new scholarship from the history professor responsible for the Silk Roads project.

My presentation was well received (Mass Digitization and Special Collections) but anti climactic since the audience had received a copy of my slides plus a translated version of my speaking notes. The big hit was the map of the 200 most successful web sites arrayed on the Tokyo subway grid.

There was lots of evidence that Japanese institutions have begun to regard systematic digitization as an intrinsic part of their mission. That was heartening.

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