To create a digitized version of a rare book or manuscript from Oberlin College Library's Special Collections, consisting of high-resolution pictures of the book, translation of the text, and detailed information about the book, which can be put on the world wide web and made available to anyone in the world with internet access.


There are two major premises behind this project, two reasons that I think this is an important thing to do. First of all, digitization is an effective means of preserving books. If detailed, high-resolution photographs of books can be made available, then scholars and researchers can use these photographs instead of the book itself, saving the book from excessive wear and tear. Not only that, but if the book itself is somehow damaged, then the digital version will survive for future use.

The second reason this project is important is the fact that the internet is a growing resource for scholars. Vast amounts of information are now available on the web to any of the huge number of people who have access to the internet. Libraries now have the option of making their books available to millions more users than ever before by putting books on the web. Users from all over the world can access the books, without having to damage them and without having to travel to the holding library. To me this is a very exciting prospect--since I am interested in rare books, it is exciting to be able to see them on the web and to be able to look at them in detail, which I can not do when the books are kept in a display case. Also, I can potentially study a book I need without having to travel great distances to see it. Although it is certainly far off in the future, it is exciting to picture a vast worldwide digital library, where undreamed-of amounts of information can be made available to just about anyone in the world.

Ulterior Motive

Yes, there is another reason for the project. I want to do this type of thing for a living some day--I think it would be great to get paid to flip through old books and do research about them. So I am sortof overdoing this project--chances are, the rest of the world will not find the book I am digitizing worth all of the work that I am putting into it. However, I would like to have the experience of fully digitizing a complete book and doing all the research, so that I have that experience under my belt and can take that experience to institutions that are involved in digitization projects.


This is going to be a long and arduous project, if it is done as completely as I would like. There are four major stages to the project:

1. Choose a book

I would like to use a book from Oberlin's Special Collections. I want to use a rare book--the purpose of the project is to make a book available to readers that they would not have access to under normal circumstances. I would like to avoid using a facsimile if at all possible--the very existence of a facsimile means that it is not terribly difficult to get a hold of a particular book. In addition, making a digital facsimile of a facsimile seems rather redundant--I want users to know that the detail they are examining is the detail of the original book. The book needs to be somewhat visually interesting as well, so that the photographs of the pages are useful to readers. If a book contains nothing but text, then it would make more sense to just make the text available in ASCII format, instead of going to all the trouble to take pictures.

2. Research

Once I have chosen a book, the bulk of the project will involve detailed research about that book. First, I will need to examine the physical properties of the book itself--when, how, where, and with what materials it was made, any damage to the book or repairs that have been made. I will need to find what information I can about the people involved in the making of the book--the author, the scribe, the artist, and anyone else who contributed to it. I will examine the text in detail and provide a transcript and a translation of it if possible. I will determine the importance of the text itself. I will examine the artwork in the book--how skilled the artist was, to what artistic school he belonged, etc. I will research the history of this particular book--who has owned it over the centuries. I will also determine the place of this book in the history of its genre and of books in general.

3. Digitization

I will determine whether it is better to use a digital camera or a scanner to get high-resolution, clear images, without damage to the book, and then I will take photographs of every page of the book. I would like to be able to use a high enough resolution that users will be able to zoom in on the image and look at it in enlarged detail.

4. Create a Web Page

Finally, all of this information will be made into a web page. The page will have all of the images of the book, transcription and translation of the text, all of the relevant information that I found in my research, as well as links to related pages and projects on the web. This web page can then be made accessible through the Oberlin College Library web site to anyone with internet access.

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