As I searched mindlessly for inspiration for this blog entry, visions of shelf upon shelf of dusty forgotten volumes tucked away in isolated corners of the Marriott Library loomed in my head. In the midst of the current digital transition period, the end user greatly appreciates the occasional stumbling upon a useful article or an electronic book resulting from a keyword search that relates to a research paper or a homework assignment, thus making digital archiving an important and significant service in the preservation of our heritage. As a freshman in college, I remember heading off to the library on a mission to research a term paper. I wished back then that the library provided grocery carts as a service as I clumsily made my way down the aisles and my stack of books grew, while my arms ached miserably under the weight of the literary writings.
The current world of digital content has thrown libraries at a cornerstone of research and development. How does one judge what materials hold archival value for digital preservation? The digital collections showcased in our Content Digital Asset Management system are a product of the Marriott Library’s commitment to explore and establish the best practices for digitization, digital preservation, online access and presentation of materials that hold value to our digital collections and are of interest to the end user of the contemporary world. Today’s freshman does not need to roam the aisles of the library, while scouting water fountains on the way, in order to quench the thirst caused by exhaustion and fatigue resulting from the trek through five floors of stacks; or the thirst for that perfect segment of resource that will satisfy the final provision for that dreaded history paper. Today’s researcher can slide out a ritzy paper without having to leave the confines of a comfy lab chair. The world of digitization has made so much available at our fingertips that it must not be taken for granted.
The Marriott Library proudly showcases a repertoire of many a unique digital collection. The Arabic Papyrus and paper parchment collection at the Marriott Library for example is the third largest in the world and consists of 700 Arabic documents on papyrus, 1300 on paper, and several pieces on parchment. The heartland of early Arabic world is unfolded in the various facets of this rare collection. The collection covers eight centuries of rich Middle Eastern history and dates back from the eighth century CE. This collection was donated by Professor Aziz S. Atiya, the founder of the Middle East Center at the University of Utah. Atiya spent several years gathering fragments of the collection from all over the world. The complete digitization of the Arabic Papyrus collection is still underway and it has presented researchers from around the globe with an opportunity to understand the history of the Middle East by allowing them a glimpse into the development of early Islamic civilization by featuring a very large and very diverse collection of pre modern Arabic documents in the United States. The digitized material is full text searchable, with JPEG2000 images that load quickly and can be zoomed in for detail: