Columbia University Libraries to Partner in Medical Heritage Library Project
NEW YORK, January 6, 2010 –

The Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at Columbia University is a partner in a multi-centered grant to digitize materials in the history of medicine.


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.

The Open Knowledge Commons (OKC), a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, MA, is dedicated to building a universal digital library for democratic access to information. OKC works to identify, instigate, and secure funding for projects that expand the digital commons and facilitate its use. Working with research libraries, cultural heritage institutions, funders, and their partners, it supports digitization of printed collections, the open availability and use of scanned and born-digital materials, and the long-term preservation of such works.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.  

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