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Internet Archive Open To Art

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We worry so much about click-through rates, ad campaigns, and keyword pricing that it’s easy to miss out on the more creative side of what the Internet can offer.

Thanks to a grant the Internet Archive received from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Brewster Kahle and company will be able to bring a number of historic collections of works into the digital realm.

Once in place, these works will be available without restrictions on their use. It’s a scenario that Kahle has worked hard to encourage through his work on the Open Content Alliance, which he discussed in a phone call with us.

The million-dollar grant will enable works from five different collections to be made available digitally. In discussing the scanning of works and repurposing of existing digital content (the Metropolitan Museum of Art wants OCA links to come to its hi-res images), Kahle touched on the topic of Google’s book scanning endeavors.

He’s not a fan of Google’s agreements with libraries in exchange for their content, and he claimed others were beginning to look askance at Google’s requests. “Some people are reading those agreements,” Kahle said. “Libraries don’t want a perpetual lockdown of their content.”

If Google should decide to embrace OCA’s methods, they would be welcomed with open arms. One of Kahle’s goals has been to bring the search advertising giant into the fold.

Until then, Kahle and OCA will be delighted to put Sloan’s grant to good use. Along with the archive of publications and several thousand key images from the Met, the OCA will gain access to collections spanning the country:

Boston Public Library: The John Adams collection, which is the complete personal library of the Founding Father, lifelong book collector and second President of the United States.

The Getty Research Institute: Major collection of books on art and architecture and an alternate collection on the performing arts.

Johns Hopkins University Libraries: The James Birney Collection of Anti-Slavery materials.

Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley: Key primary texts documenting the California Gold Rush and Western expansion.


Although the technology side of scanning occupies an important place in OCA’s efforts, Kahle was careful to emphasize the essential need for the human side of the equation. He said leveraging librarians will be very important. Their skills at assembling sensible collections and cataloging them will make works much more accessible and useful to the public.

Older material poses a challenge, Kahle said; he also recommended a resource for some classical material placed online at Tufts University. There, Professor Gregory Crane oversees the Perseus Project.

It is an effort to mashup places mentioned throughout classical literature with online maps and other digital resources to bring people a look at the geography settings for historic events. For example, 300, an adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name about the Spartan stand at Thermopylae, will be in theaters in 2007.

The curious moviegoer can use Perseus to view Thermopylae as it is today, through images collected in its database. One image shows a view from a Spartan burial mound looking south-southwest at the cliffs above the Pass of Thermopylae.

As digital archiving efforts like those of OCA and Perseus gain in content, more of the world will be revealed to a greater number of people. Kahle and Crane likely hope we will put that knowledge to good use over time.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Internet Archive Open To Art
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