13 August 2014

Digital Copies Protect Fragile Original Documents

The Port Royal Experiment, defined as "an early humanitarian effort to prepare the former slaves of the South Carolina Sea Islands for inclusion as free citizens in American public life" by the South Carolina Encyclopedia, was a unique feature of our local past. Because we have a fragile printed copy of the First Annual Report of the Port Royal Relief Committee presented at a public meeting in Concert Hall, Chestnut St., Philadelphia, March 26th, 1863 in our holdings, we refer researchers to the digital copy on the Internet Archive at https://archive.org/details/firstannualrepor00port. Why? To preserve the original for use in the future. It's a quite simple equation: Less physical handling = less potential damage to fragile documents. 

The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like many paper-based libraries, the Internet Archive provides free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public.  It has been doing digital preservation since 1996 by offering permanent access to historical collections that exist in digital format. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages and provides specialized services for adaptive reading and information access for the blind and other persons with disabilities. 

HathiTrust Digital Library is a digital preservation repository and highly functional access platform that started in California in 2008.  It provides long-term preservation and access services for public domain and in copyright content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and in-house partner institution initiatives. The primary community that HathiTrust serves are the members (faculty, students, and users) of its partners libraries, but the materials in HathiTrust are available to all to the extent permitted by law and contracts, providing the published record as a public good to users around the world.

We often check the Internet Archive and the HathiTrust Digital Library for digital versions of the fragile and historic items we hold in trust for the community.  Together these two resources provide access to billions of items. When we find a digital copy, we add the link to the appropriate topic in our Lists of Materials in the BDC's Wordpress Blog or share the link with the cataloging librarian to add to the SCLENDS record.

Heads up: The BDC Research Room will be closed at lunchtime, Noon to 1 pm, beginning August 19th and continuing through August 25th.  Regular hours, that is 10 am - 5 pm, resume on Tuesday, August 26th. 

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