Digitizing Extensive Historical Collections for Public Consumption
There are millions of unique, beautiful and historically important documents that could be available to the public if we were able to digitize them. Sharing pieces of history in an open license manner could help historians and students more easily collaborate, leading to discoveries not yet even made.
The Gough Map, otherwise known as the Bodleian map, is the oldest known representation of the island of Great Britain, created in medieval times. It is a striking historical document, as beautiful as it is important. The map is held at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, which serves 65,000 readers a year. The problem is that these readers need a library pass to access it – a very inefficient way to share the Gough Map with academics, students and members of the public. Oxford’s Bodleian spent four years working on a digital archive that could address the problem. Launched last year, Digital.Bodleian has for the first time released the Gough Map – together with 120,000 images covering everything from Victorian board games to beautifully illustrated medieval manuscripts – through an open and free online portal. All artifacts have been meticulously converted into a lossless JPEG2000 format and migrated to a robust and scalable storage infrastructure that supports the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), which allows scholars to make side-by-side, detailed comparisons of images in very high resolution. All images are searchable through a clear, standardized system of metadata called the Dublin Core, and users can tag and annotate images with their own notes or public comments. For the first time, the collection is social, allowing groups of researchers or friends to share their insights in a single online location. Crucially, all images are shared under an open license, which means they can be downloaded and reused for non-commercial use.