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‘Scoping the Future of Oxford’s Digital Collections’


The University of Oxford decided to address, formally, the future of its digitization projects. A study, approved and funded by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, has been established and will run from November 1998 until July 1999 under the University Library Services Directorate. The project is being conducted by Stuart Lee, seconded from the Humanities Computing Unit, and is being overseen by a Project Steering Group (a subset of the University’s Digital Library Resources Group comprising John Tuck, David Cooper, Marilyn Deegan, and Peter Leggate). Entitled ‘Scoping the Future of Oxford's Digital Collections’ it aims to produce a report that looks at existing projects at Oxford, potential projects at Oxford, and how the University should approach this area in the future. The study will be placed in the broader context of national and international initiatives. The recommendations of the report, therefore, will be of value to all Universities who plan to move forward in the area of the digital library.

Why is the Report Needed?

The libraries of the University of Oxford have been involved, for a number of years, in a variety of local and national digitization projects and initiatives whose central aims have been to support research and scholarship by making key library materials more widely and conveniently available in networkable digital formats (e.g. the Internet Library of Early Journals, Broadside Ballads Project, Celtic and Medieval Manuscripts Project, Wilfred Owen Multimedia Digital Archive, and so on). Oxford’s large and complex library system, under a single directorate since 1997, has now explicitly identified the digitization of its extensive unique and rare holdings as a strategic priority, and is seeking to maximise its hitherto piecemeal investment of effort and resources in the digitization arena through a more overtly planned and managed approach.

Formal Aims of the Report

The aims of the report are:

In order to achieve these it will have to:

The Progress of the Report

The initial phases of the report are centred on a survey of current (or recently completed) digitization projects at Oxford, potential projects, and other initiatives both nationally and internationally. In order to achieve this, one of the first tasks will be to look at existing models of assessing a collection for possible digitization and other surveys of completed projects. The report will encompass such areas as:

Assessing archives/collections for digitization, in terms of criteria for selection

Selection and benchmarking, digitizing primary source material (rare documents and non-rare documents), microfilms, and other media


Post-editing, costs of digitization

Storage, preservation, and metadata

Infrastructure within Oxford (location of service, legal deposit issues, structural location of service, overlap with existing services and projects, feeding into Resource-Based Learning)

Access (security, authentication, watermarking, charging models, metadata, browsing and searching)

To help with this the study will be sending out questionnaires, talking directly to projects, and consulting experts throughout the University and beyond.

Further Information

In due course you will be receiving various bits of information about the progress of the report and an open day/afternoon is planned for the new year. However if you would like any further information, or have specific issues you think should be addressed please contact Stuart Lee directly (Stuart.Lee@oucs.ox.ac.uk; tel: (2)77230).