New York Public Library's Massive Digitization Project Begins

Imagine being able to walk through Henry David Thoreau's hand-drawn map of Walden Pond. With the New York Public Library's recently started digitization project, anyone will be able to experience this bit of history, and so much more. The library has embarked on a $1 million digitization project of early American History documents that will continue through 2014. At the end, the library estimates 11,000 manuscripts and 35,000 pages, like the map, to have been digitized, all available to the public online in the Digital Library.

The documents will come from the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection and the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, both currently residing at the library. The Emmet collection was acquired in 1896 and the Berg collection in 1940.

Technicians have already started digitizing the Emmet collection, which contains approximately 11,000 manuscripts cataloging early U.S. history, including a copy of the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson. The Berg collection houses the works of some of America's classic authors like Thoreau, Vladimir Nabokov and Jack Kerouac. The 35,000 pages also consist of letters, such as Walt Whitman's correspondence to Union soldiers during the Civil War. The library's Digital Library already contains more than 800,000 images of digitized content.

The impact of this project is widespread. Not only is this project and the digital archive hurtling the library into a continually evolving digital landscape, but it is a massive worldwide academic advancement. When the digitization is complete, everyone across the globe will have access to these valuable documents.

"This exciting project is a key element in our goal of creating greater possibilities for our collections and expanding their accessibility worldwide,” Anthony Marx, president of the library said in a press release about the project. “Digitizing collections featuring hand-written documents from Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Mark Twain, among others, provides remarkable new opportunities for scholarly research, and creates new teaching applications for an international audience."

The project is made possible by a $500,000 donation by The Polonksy Foundation and an additional $500,000 in similar donations.

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