in several venues. Staff members of the archives at Boston University and
Woodruff Library in Atlanta are together building a deeply integrated shared
catalog of their holdings of the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Into the project,
they have drawn the scholarly editor of King’s papers, whose team is
contributing the vast knowledge it has accumulated about attribution, dating,
provenance, and people. The project is also now considering how to draw in a
third archives, the King Center in Atlanta.
The Integrating Digital Papyrology project based at Duke, with University
Librarian Deborah Jakubs as one of the principal investigators, has gone a step
beyond building a unified catalog by integrating three historically separate
databases about essentially the same corpus of papyri: one containing bibliographic
information; another containing images of the papyri; and the third containing
transcriptions. Project staff are now in the process of adding an editorial overlay so
that scholars can efficiently make new peer-reviewed entries into the database.
The Mellon Foundation also recently made a grant to a group of university
presses, led by the Indiana University Press, all of which specialize in the
publication of ethnomusicology. These presses have chosen to use as part of
their publishing platform the database of Indiana’s EVIADA project, a digital
archives of ethnomusicological field video, so that primary source evidence
can be closely linked to newly published monographs.
There are many other examples that I could offer from Mellon-funded
programs, including the Roman de la Rose Digital Library led by Stephen
Nichols, the Parker Library on the Web at Stanford and Cambridge, Electronic
Enlightenment at Oxford, the Founding Fathers’ papers at the University of
Virginia, the Long Civil Rights Movement project at the University of North
Carolina, and the Stalin archives at Yale. However, I hope I have said enough to
convince you that a value proposition for special collections that is framed in
terms of scholarly objectives is enormously attractive and opens a rich area for
innovation and the pursuit of new lines of inquiry in a variety of scholarly fields.
* * * * *
Now, in closing, let me return to a question that I raised at the beginning:
What, if anything, do the various slang expressions about archives and curating
that I mentioned at the beginning say about the value today of special
collections, whether in artifactual or digital form? A flip answer would be to
quote George Bernard Shaw, who once wrote that “people exaggerate the value
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The Changing Role of Special Collections in Scholarly Communications
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DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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