Afghan Officials Receive Digitized Cultural Treasures

Here is another strong argument why libraries, archives, and museums should make digital copies of everything in their collections and store the copies off-site. During recent warfare and insurrections, tens of thousands of historical items were stolen and most apparently are lost forever. Now more than 163,000 digital pages of documents are being returned to the owners of the originals.

A digital copy is never as good as the original but it is a lot better than staring at an empty space where the original was once housed!

The following announcement was written by the Library of Congress:

Library of Congress, Carnegie Corporation provide Cultural, Historical Materials

The Library of Congress has completed a three-year project, financed by Carnegie Corporation of New York, to digitize holdings of the Library of Congress relating to the culture and history of Afghanistan, for use by that nation’s cultural and educational institutions.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, joined by Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian, presented hard drives containing more than 163,000 pages of documents to the Afghan Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Bari Jahani, and to Abdul Wahid Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University.

The officials accepted the gift for 10 Afghan institutions that will receive complete collection sets: the National Library of Afghanistan, the National Archive of Afghanistan, American University of Afghanistan, Badakhshan University, Balkh University, Bamiyan University, Herat University, Kabul University, Kandahar University and Nangarhar University.

In 2012, Carnegie Corporation of New York provided a grant to the Library of Congress to digitize its important collections relating to Afghanistan—collections that include thousands of historical, cultural, and scholarly materials dating from the early 1300s to the 1990s. The grant was announced at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in January 2013.

In addition to making this content available on the Internet through its online World Digital Library (WDL.org), the Library of Congress pledged to give high-resolution copies of the digitized material (along with extensive bibliographic records and explanatory documentation) to cultural and educational institutions in Afghanistan for use in their own digital libraries and online repositories. The collection includes books, manuscripts, maps, prints and photographs, and newspapers and periodicals from and about Afghanistan in Pushto, Dari, and Persian, as well as in English, French, German, Russian and other European languages.

The project is an example of the “virtual repatriation” made possible by digital technologies that is one of the key objectives of the World Digital Library, a joint project of the Library of Congress and UNESCO. Many of the materials in this collection are not found in Afghanistan itself, having been destroyed in the wars of the last decades or in natural disasters. Others are unique, and the Library of Congress holds the only copy.

“One of my goals as Librarian is to open up the riches of the Library of Congress to all people, wherever in the world they might be,” Hayden said. “I am so thrilled we had these items to share with the people of Afghanistan. This project is an example of what can be accomplished when resources are paired with the Library’s extraordinary treasure-chest of items from around the world. I want to thank the Carnegie Corporation for making this project possible.”

“The Library’s digitization project is an effort to open up its vast and invaluable collections to the rest of the world,” said Gregorian. “As part of this effort, I am very pleased that the Library decided to undertake the digitization of its most important documents relating to Afghanistan’s rich heritage and repatriate them to the Afghan people.”

The World Digital Library is a cooperative global initiative led by the Library of Congress, supported in part by a $4 million grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. WDL presents in digital form documents of cultural significance, free of charge, about all countries and cultures. World Digital Library partners currently include more than 190 libraries, museums and archives from 81 countries. The WDL now features items in 132 languages and about all United Nations member states. Resources available on the site–which presents its information in a user’s choice of seven languages—include manuscripts, maps, rare books, sound recordings, films, prints and photographs.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, its work focuses on issues Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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