Background: The British Library (BL)’s digitization initiative was first conceptualized in July 2007. In that year, the British Library Board approved an International Engagement Strategy that commits the BL to a large-scale digitization of its major collections, and at the same time to partner other collections in danger of being lost. Over the last year, the BL has proposed the need to devise an India Strategy in order to digitize its South Asia collections. The framework for developing the India Strategy has taken shape over the last few months, in the form of a BL and Higher Education Cell (HEC) collaboration. BL personnel have had extensive consultations with Indian institutions over the last two years, and are also currently engaged in developing a pilot project with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly the Prince of Wales Museum) to digitize the Mewar Ramayana.
Agenda for the Workshop: A series of workshops will be collaboratively organized by the BL and HEC with the aim of developing a sustainable ten-year plan, which will include partnerships with other institutions for achieving key digitization targets. The first of these workshops takes place on September 20 and 21, 2010 in Bangalore. The workshop aims to bring together Indian and UK research partners to discuss the India strategy for digitizing the BL resources.
The participants in the workshop are invited to reflect on the daunting and challenging task before us: that of identifying a critical mass of material for digitization from the BL’s vast resources, and debate the criteria for prioritizing such material. The discussion should lead us in the direction of identifying researchable projects which would be specific to region, period and theme. The criteria for identifying such projects could include:
- Conservation of endangered archival material in Indian repositories and the possibility of supplementing such material with BL resources
- Ready availability of material to work with
- Institutional arrangements that would facilitate access to material
- Material that would help establish research collaborations between Indian and UK institutions.
- Material that would support curriculum development and enhancement in Indian and British universities
While deciding on the projects, the modalities of implementation would be a crucial factor. The BL-HEC workshops will aim to facilitate:
- Possible collaborations between national and regional, public and private archives and libraries in India, which would enable the digitization of materials available in their holdings
- Exploration of local and international funding options in order to sustain the initiative and upscale it
- Technological partnerships which would enable high-volume quality digitization
- Generating consensus on the technical standards of dissemination and storage of the digitized resources.
The first workshop on September 20-21 brings together Indian University academicians, technological partners, institutional heads such as the Directors of the National Archives of India (NAI) and of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), and UK representatives from the BL and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), to initiate this discussion across the various levels of partnerships—research, institutional and technological. The workshop will also set the agenda for and plan the logistics of future workshops.