This represents my first post for my Digital Collections class, discussing examples of interesting digital collections. All posts for this class will be categorized under the term “digital collections.”
ibiblio is a “collection of collections,” including art, history, literature, music, science, software, and cultural studies. Some collections within ibiblio are in non-English languages, such as Spanish and French. The variety of resource subjects and media is admirable; the diversity of resources makes it feel like a full library, rather than just a special collection on a limited topic. ibiblio allows individuals and nonprofit organizations to contribute relevant collections in order to expand ibiblio resources. By welcoming collaboration from various agencies, ibiblio has the capacity to grow and diversify so much more than it could otherwise. I was interested to find a collection called CyberSufis, categorized under religion and theology. Unfortunately it’s currently under construction and inaccessible, but I’ll have to revisit it. I’ve barely scratched the surface of Rumi’s writings, but I love what I’ve read so far.
Project Gutenberg is another of ibiblio’s collections. Founded by Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg is the oldest and largest “single collection of free electronic books.” Besides text in multiple languages, Project Gutenberg also offers audio books, CDs, DVDs, and digitized sheet music. My brother, a digital aficionado, actually introduced me to Project Gutenberg in the late ’90s–since then it’s grown exponentially. It’s amazing to me that this digital collection is a 501(c)3 run almost entirely by volunteers. To have lasted almost 40 years on only the support of grants and donations is truly impressive. I wonder if I will ever create a digital collection that could be active and relevant for even half that time?
Being fond of Latin and the classics, I can’t help but appreciate the Internet Classics Archive, which provides 441 works of classic literature by 59 authors, including Augustus, Julius Caesar, Livy, Ovid, Aesop and Aristotle. Texts are offered in English translation, but this archive also partners with the Perseus Digital Library to offer texts in Latin, at least those originally written in Latin. Moreover, each Latin word is hyperlinked to provide the translation and part of speech in English. I found this resource a couple years ago while searching for the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam.
The Internet Classics Archive notes that in the fall of 2000, its website suffered disk failure and backup errors, but the majority of texts were recovered with the assistance of Google and the MIT Media Lab. Unfortunately some applications of the Archive still do not work after 8 years. Some of the links to texts in Peseus also seem to be defunct. I wonder if this collection has been abandoned? In any case, it is listed in the OEDb article “250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives,” dated 2007. Hopefully it will be restored to full operation someday.
I guess the Internet Classics Archive illustrates what happens when a digital collection is neglected. Digital collections require upkeep as much as physical libraries, to combat bit-rot and to grow the collection. If a site displays outdated announcements, users may assume that its contents are irrelevant and look for another resource. We need to make the place look hospitable if we want people to come in.