The Open Knowledge Commons announced December 17th that it has received a $1.5 million dollar award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to launch its first major collaborative digitization initiative, a digital Medical Heritage Library project. The project’s goal is to create a permanent, freely accessible digital library of all published medical heritage literature. This first round of funding will support collaborative digitization of approximately 30,000 volumes of public domain works from the collections of some of the world’s leading medical libraries.
In addition to the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at Columbia University, the project will involve the National Library of Medicine, the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library at Yale University, and the New York Public Library. Future plans for the project foresee the addition of other library partners and the creation of a web site for access to the shared digital collections.
Columbia’s Health Sciences Library holds comprehensive collections in the history of the health sciences but is particularly strong in anatomy, physiology, surgery, and dentistry. Other subject strengths include medical Americana, medical education, and European spa books from the 18th and 19th centuries. Specific titles to be digitized will all be in the public domain, and will be selected collaboratively with the other project participants. The Internet Archive will serve as Columbia’s digitization agent and will make the titles available from their site (http://www.archive.org). All of Columbia’s digital files will be preserved in a long-term digital archive to assure future accessibility.