Digital Collections: University of Pennsylvania Libraries Will Provide Comprehensive Access to American Institute of Indian Studies Image Collection, Initial Batch of Images Now Available Online
From Penn Libraries:
The University of Pennsylvania Libraries has launched a project to make the full American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) Image Collection available and discoverable online. The collection documents a range of Indian art through black and white photography, with an emphasis on premodern temple architecture and sculpture.
An initial batch of 2,300 images—featuring the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, both UNESCO World Heritage sites—is now available through Colenda, the Penn Libraries’ repository for digitized and born-digital material of enduring value. When the project is complete, researchers will have free access to nearly 90,000 high-resolution images for viewing and downloading, along with a wealth of searchable metadata.
“The project to digitize this collection and make it discoverable will make a lasting impact at Penn—and to the world’s cultural and scholarly record,” says Brigitte Weinsteiger, Interim Director and Gershwind & Bennett Family Senior Associate Vice Provost for Collections and Scholarly Communications. “It is a priority for the Penn Libraries to provide resources to students and scholars who want to research and preserve the cultural and artistic contributions of people across the globe.”
The AIIS Image Collection was originally created through an initiative of the American Institute of Indian Studies’ Center for Art & Archaeology (formerly known as the American Academy of Benares). Beginning in 1965, teams were trained and sent throughout South Asia to photograph archeological sites and artifacts and to draft metadata, with the goal of establishing an archive. Eventually two versions of the archive took root: One in Gurgaon, outside Delhi; another—at the University of Pennsylvania, in 1979, through the newly launched South Asia Art Archive. Even as the collection grew, the intention was to continue building the archive at Penn as an exact replica of the archive in Gurgaon.
Portions of the AIIS Image Collection have been digitized in the past, but the current Penn Libraries project will mark the first time the complete collection is being made available and discoverable online in a comprehensive way.
Each item in the physical collection consists of a black-and-white photograph and a square of paper with metadata pasted onto 14-by-10-inch photo cards. To kickstart the current project, staff in the Penn Libraries’ Global Studies Technical Services Department coordinated with a vendor to prepare and digitize the physical collection. They also developed a structure to transcribe the original metadata to a format appropriate for digital catalog records. The Penn Libraries’ Colenda team then designed a process to map that information to the repository’s data fields and the digital images, thereby allowing for discovery and access.
Later this spring, the next phase of work will begin to add the remainder of the full 90,000-image collection to Colenda.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) 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.