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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

120 rarities have been digitized already

The National Historical Library of Ukraine (NHLU) presented the results of the first stage of the project “Worldwide Access to Historical Heritage of Ukraine through Digitization”
15 November, 2012 - 00:00

This is a joint initiative of the library and the Intellectual Leadership youth NGO. The project aims to preserve and promote cultural and historical documentary heritage of world and national importance, which is kept at the NHLU.

They have digitized over 120 local history and rare books, half of which are freely available on the library’s website. It is planning to digitize a few hundred books more over the next years. The project participants have created full image catalog of the library listing thousands of books. From now on, researchers, students and all interested citizens will be able to determine a book’s availability without leaving home.

The initiators of the project seek to digitize thousands more books, among them the jewels of the library’s rare books department. These include the Ostroh Bible published by the first Russian printer Ivan Fedorov and other old printed books, antique History of France, works by Ukrainian and foreign classic authors Ivan Kotliarevsky, Taras Shevchenko, Alexander Pushkin, and Moliere that were published in their lifetimes…

The total cost of the undertaking is estimated at about 1.5 million hryvnias. The Day already covered the project’s success in obtaining financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation under its Anti-crisis Humanitarian Program and the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine in September, 2012. It should be noted that digitizing a book costs about 500 hryvnias and takes on average half a day.

“We have received 330,000 hryvnias from the Renaissance,” a co-organizer of the project, president of the Intellectual Leadership Young Researchers’ Association NGO Olena Krykun told The Day. “We then immediately applied to a few more international support programs, including the British Library. It is quite difficult to find funding for such projects in Ukraine, as the preservation of cultural heritage is not a priority for local donors nowadays. We have bought a scanning station to be able to scan ourselves and teach librarians how to do it in the future, our cash flow notwithstanding.”

Technologically, digitization of such books is a demanding task, as a lot of them are highly susceptible to deterioration.

The library is using two scanners currently, but they are not suitable for all books. Digitizing expert from Russia Tatyana Belyaeva notes: “When it comes to rare books of the 13th through 19th centuries, one should determine how well preserved they are before digitization starts, and, subject to this determination, select equipment to be used. European and Russian libraries have been using non-contact vacuum scanners to digitize poorly preserved books for a decade, while we scan using two mass-market professional scanners that cost about 70,000 euros each. We would need hundreds of these scanners to complete the project in five years! Therefore, the library has to make important decisions on what books to digitize first. These are the ones that are in high demand and the ones with high national and historical or technical value.”