Bristol a partner in 19th-century medical books digitisation project
30 July 2014
The University of Bristol is one of nine partner institutions whose 19th-century book collections will be digitised and added to the UK Medical Heritage Library (UK MHL), an online resource for the study of the history of medicine and related sciences.
The Wellcome Library and Jisc this week announced that the libraries of six universities have joined the partnership – UCL (University College London), the University of Leeds, the University of Glasgow, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, King's College London and the University of Bristol – along with the libraries of the Royal College of Physicians of London, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Approximately 15 million pages of printed books and pamphlets from all ten partners will be digitised over a period of two years and will be made freely available to researchers and the public under an open licence. By pooling their collections, the partners will create a comprehensive online library. The content will be available on multiple platforms to broaden access, including the Internet Archive, the Wellcome Library and Jisc Historic Books.
The project's focus is on books and pamphlets from the 19th century that are on the subject of medicine or its related disciplines. This will include works relating to the medical sciences, consumer health, sport and fitness, as well as different kinds of medical practice, from phrenology to hydrotherapy. The medical holdings of the University of Bristol Library embrace collections of materials from the historic libraries of the Bristol Medical School (established in 1833) and hospitals, medical societies and practitioners of Bristol and Bath.
Works on food and nutrition will also feature: around 1,400 cookery books from the University of Leeds are among those lined up for digitisation. They, along with works from the other partner institutions, will be transported to the Wellcome Library in London where a team from the Internet Archive will undertake the digitisation work. The project will build on the success of the US-based Medical Heritage Library consortium, of which the Wellcome Library is a part, which has already digitised over 50 000 books and pamphlets.
Simon Chaplin, head of the Wellcome Library, said: ‘We are pleased that these nine institutions have chosen to add their valuable collections to the Medical Heritage Library. As well as our partners Jisc and Research Libraries UK, we will be working closely with our Academic Advisory Group to produce an online resource that is both a repository for a superb wealth of content and an effective research tool for a broad range of users.’
Peter Findlay, digital portfolio manager, Jisc, said: ‘We are delighted that the Wellcome Library team has been able to identify such valuable collections, which will be digitised to a high standard, freed from the confines of their original format and made openly available for teaching, learning and research. By working closely with the partner institutions to build the UK Medical Heritage Library, we are converting books into searchable data so that users can explore every aspect of 19th-century medicine and develop new insights into this period of unprecedented medical discovery.’
The UK MHL initiative started in 2013 when the Wellcome Library embarked on a project with the Internet Archive to digitise their collection of 19th-century medical books. The project was extended earlier in 2014 with the support of Jisc and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. It was co-designed with Research Libraries UK and is informed by an Academic Advisory Group to ensure that the best collections are included.
For the Wellcome Library this forms part of a larger ambition to digitise and make freely available over 50 million pages of historical medical books, archives, manuscripts and journals by 2020.