Jun 212010

Aidan and I drove into DC to meet with Mark Dimunation (Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress). Spending time with Mark is always great fun. Spending time with Mark *at* the LC and having him show you about, tell you interesting things about the building *and* show you around in the vault is quite extraordinary. Aidan was really amazed. As we stood in the middle of the reading room, he leaned over and whispered, “This is awesome.”…and this was *before* Mark put Charles Dickens’ cane and Lincoln’s life mask in his hands. It was awesome. It amazes me that Mark can get anything done on a day to day basis with such amazing things to explore and play with.

We then drove up to Philadelphia to settle in for the rest of the week at RBMS. We joined Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscriptsat their lovely shop for an open house and dinner. Having chatted with Mark earlier in the morning about the nature of perogies, it was strangely pleasing to find them offered up for dinner. The house is wonderful (late 19th century officer’s quarters at The Arsenal)…do not miss the spectacular floors. We were greeted upon arrival by Frank Wood, sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. We Mainers get about.

I’ve included many images below-tried to give good descriptions where I could. Each will get big and pretty if you click upon. Enjoy.

Apr 282010

This first great manuscript library has announced plans to digitize 80,000 manuscripts from its archives. This collection comprises approximately 40 million manuscript pages and is expected to comprise 45 petabytes of data. The plan is apparently well established, expecting to take 10 years and evolving through 3 phases…with a staff of 60 growing to 120.

The technical aspects are interesting. They are tentatively planning to use a Metis System Scanner and a 50MP Hasselblad camera. Most interestingly, they intend to use FITS (Flexible Image Transport System) for the images (“Once FITS, always FITS). FITS is an open standard used mostly primarily in hard science areas. FITS is/was designed specifically for scientific data and includes structural elements for describing photometric and spatial calibration information, together with image origin metadata. Obviously, the inclusion of such data at the time of scanning could make the images significantly more valuable and at least in part address some of the major shortcomings of digital images…loss of the “nature of the original object”. Added info can be found here:
Original Announcement from the Vatican Library
Lengthy and Italian
Vatican Library Site [N.B. Has a nice Erasmus quotation, but all links are broken…]

Mar 102010

I’ve just spent two great days hanging out with Mark Dimunation of the Library of Congress eating great food and talking about books and history and fun things. I’ll post a bit more on this when the dust settles. Suffice it to say that it was great fun.

I learned what I think is an interesting thing: Rare books at the LC is the *only* collection at the LC that is not the “biggest in the world”. It is, apparently, fourth…behind the Vatican Library, the British Library and the Bibliothèque Nationale. [N.B. There is also The Bodleian and the unknown quantity that is the Russian Library…]