Penn Libraries: “‘Just Make the Data Available’: Exploring Manuscripts with OPenn”
From the Penn Libraries:
Once upon a time, examining pages from one of the Medieval manuscripts held by Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts would always require someone to make an appointment with a curator, travel to Philadelphia, and visit the Charles K. MacDonald Reading Room.
While the experience of viewing a rare book or manuscript in person is still one of vital importance to researchers, this is not a trip that just anyone had the capability to make, even before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted all our movements. Since the late 1990s, Penn Libraries has helped researchers surmount this obstacle through a wide variety of digitization efforts, including projects like Penn in Hand and Print at Penn. Today, one way to explore the Libraries’ digitized manuscripts is using OPenn, a website hosting high-resolution archival images of manuscripts and descriptive information about each one of them. Launched in 2015, OPenn now holds just over 10,000 documents and more than 1 million individual images from over fifty institutions, including the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Columbia University, the Rosenbach, and the British Library, all freely available to download, use, and share.
Making library materials accessible to as many people as possible has long been central to how librarians conceptualize their work. The availability of technology that allows us to take high-quality images of collections items and share those images in a multitude of ways online has opened up a new universe of possibility. Today, people share and study library collections in ways that are increasingly complex. In response, the Penn Libraries has made it a strategic priority to expand and streamline access to the resources our users need to create, disseminate, and preserve knowledge–including through digitization.
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Filed under: Archives and Special Collections, Data Files, Digital Preservation, Libraries, News, Patrons and Users
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.