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There was a nice press release last week about the digitization of a Chaucer manuscript at Petworth House by staff from The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library.
I was interested to see the notes about the role of the library:
It is part of a 18-month project – funded by JISC – which showcases The University of Manchester as one of the country’s leading centres for digitisation of rare books, manuscripts and archives. …
The Centre of Digital Excellence will support universities, colleges, libraries and museums which lack the resources to carry out the specialised work. …
Assistant Librarian Carol Burrows, from The University of Manchester, manages the project. She said: “We’re very excited to be working with the National Trust to launch this project.
“No other organisation in the north of England specialises in the object-centred digitisation of heritage materials.
“As the set-up costs of such facilities are prohibitive for most institutions, many can’t afford to carry out this sort of work.
“Over the eighteen months, we will be investigating whether a Centre for Heritage Digitisation, based within The University of Manchester, will work as a commercial concern.
“By locating the Centre within the University we will be able to draw on our exceptional body of skills and expertise.”
Ben Showers, programme manager at JISC, said: ” What makes this project so exciting is that not only will the John Rylands Library be working with other organisations to make available online some rare and important scholarly works.
“But they will also be exploring business models for the long term viability of digitisation.
“JISC’s funding of this centre of excellence will help support smaller cultural organisations such as university or college archives and libraries
“It will make available precious resources that the organisations themselves may not have the skills, resources or simply the time, to put online.” [Canterbury Tales to be captured on camera]
I was interested in this because it was an example of the type of scaling and sourcing decisions that are going to be central to libraries over the next few years.
Most institutions do not have the scale to develop the type of digitization capacity discussed above. It will be interesting to see if there is the volume of activity and the interest in sourcing it with the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester to make this type of commercial activity viable. Presumably, the University of Manchester decided that it did want to invest in local capacity but also wanted to explore how to spread that cost.