Campaign Priority: Technology for Faster, Easier, Better Research

The internet has become the primary way people find and use information. That’s why we’ve been mounting a digital modernization effort that is just as significant as our brick-and-mortar renovations. Investments in our technical infrastructure, developing our digital collections, and expanding staff expertise ensure that the Libraries will continue to attract pre-eminent researchers and teachers for generations to come.

Example of Impact: The Gift of Digital Preservation: Adopt a Digital Collection

Every year, we digitize thousands of historical documents, images, audio, and video, converting them to new formats that will outlast the originals. Although digitization greatly increases access to such materials, preservation standards require libraries to store multiple copies in multiple locations. That means that a single digitized collection can add up to a truly massive amount of data.

In 2016, Lowell and Eileen Aptman created the Digital Preservation Fund to offset storage costs associated with long-term digital preservation. This generous gift allowed the Libraries to create the Adopt a Digital Collection program, which ensures that our existing digital collections remain on our “digital shelves” for as long as the internet is around. Each time a student or researcher accesses one of our adopted digital collections, they are doing so thanks to the help of our donors.

“We wanted to find a single, well-defined project which would have a positive impact on the Libraries,” said Anne Newton T’73, who adopted the Women’s Travel Diaries collection with her husband Bill. “I’ve always been intrigued by the intimate nature of diaries and was thrilled to think that we could enable the information locked away in these archived volumes to be digitized, preserved, and made more easily accessible. This is a project that Bill and I are both proud to support.”

Thanks to the Aptman family and other digital collections supporters, we can expand our capacity to support long-term preservation of important cultural and scholarly resources, making them accessible for students and scholars far into our future.

Example of Impact: The Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing

Formed in 2013 thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (or DC3 for short) uses new technologies to analyze some of the world’s oldest documents and artifacts. The unit is led by Joshua D. Sosin, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, who holds a joint appointment within the Libraries.

Sosin leads a team of two full-time programmers to enhance Duke’s existing digital papyrology projects and design new technological experiments with broad applicability within and beyond the field of classics. The DC3 acts as an incubator for innovative humanities scholarship and complements Duke’s other initiatives to reimagine the role of the humanities in higher education.

“The library is one of the few academic organizations with a core mandate to embrace both past and future,” said Sosin. “That’s heaven for an ancient historian, whose focus is ancient documents and the modern technologies we bring to bear on them.”

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