Cooperative Digitization of International Research Materials

The American Institute of Yemeni Studies (AIYS) and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) have been awarded a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access (TICFIA) program to catalog and digitize photographic, ethnographic, archaeological, cartographic, and other scholarly research support materials from a variety of international locations. This is the third TICFIA grant AIYS and CAORC have received: the first, in 1999, helped establish the union catalog (CAORC’s Digital Library for International Research; www.dlir.org); the second, in 2005, helped American overseas research centers in several countries partner with local archival and library collections to provide access to a rich vein of previously inaccessible scholarly material (www.lalorc.org).

The current project, the Cooperative Digitization of International Research Materials (CDIRM, www.cdirm.org), will utilize participating American overseas research centers’ connections to collaborate with foreign archives and special collections that hold unique and rare research materials. Selected materials from Guatemala, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Yemen, and Mongolia will be made easily and freely available over the Internet to American and international scholars and students. Not only are most of these materials uncataloged, unavailable, or unknown to scholars, most are extremely difficult to access (because of location, unsettled political conditions, privacy issues, or bureaucratic procedures). The Coordinator of the Digital Library for International Research, located at the Center for Research Libraries, will act as program manager.

This collaborative technology-based project provides new, shared electronic access to detailed descriptive information about selected archive and rare collections in a unified online finding aid; online union catalogs of holdings with consolidated item-level bibliographic searching; and full-text and image online access for prioritized subsets of the collections. Additionally the current project will disseminate many resources in non-Roman language alphabets (primarily various Arabic dialects, Tibetan, and Hebrew, but potentially also Ottoman Turkish and Mongolian) and help teachers of less commonly taught languages acquire materials for classroom use electronically.

These cost-effective projects through the Digital Library for International Research continue to create wide accessibility to high-quality scholarly resources in humanistic studies for scholars around the world, stimulate collaborations among U.S. and local scholars and scholarly institutions, and use technology to speed up scholarly research, open new perspectives, and make international research possible for scholars who would otherwise have no access to these resources.