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National Endowment for the Humanities Funds Yale Effort to Preserve Iraqi Journals


New Haven, Conn. — Yale University Library, a major repository of Arabic-language and Islamic literature and a leader in the process of digitizing its vast collections, has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve endangered Iraqi academic journals and make them accessible to scholars worldwide.

Iraq has a rich tradition of publishing, and its academic journals are invaluable for humanistic and area studies, particularly in history, literature and politics. Library holdings of these journals in Iraq and elsewhere are limited and in some cases imperiled. Only in the last two years, through a Yale Library project called OACIS, has it been possible to know at all accurately what Middle Eastern journals exist in which collections. Of the 600 journal titles published in Iraq that OACIS has identified, 350 of them only exist in one known location.

The NEH grant will allow the Yale Library to begin to scan the Arabic-language Iraqi journals and to digitize the most important of those held by Yale and by the University of Pennsylvania. Yale will create an electronic archive of the digitized journals, which will allow them to be accessed via the Internet and integrated into other electronic library systems. The NEH funded project, known as “Iraq ReCollection,” will be developed as a pilot to establish cost-effective standards and practices for digitizing Arabic and Middle-East language-based books and journals.

Benjamin Foster, the Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature and Curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection, said, “The project’s scale is modest, but the impact of preserving and disseminating even a handful of core humanistic journals will be broadly recognized.”

“As a project that should lead to further projects and a developing commitment to building Middle-Eastern digital libraries, Iraq ReCollection will be a sign of the future whose importance will not be lost on the scholarly world,” said Yale Associate Librarian Ann S. Okerson, a principal coordinator the project.

Yale was the first among American colleges and universities to support and encourage the study of Arabic literature and Islamic culture. For over a century and a half, Yale has developed an extensive collection of Near Eastern library materials to support Arabic and Near Eastern Studies at Yale. At present, the collection is considered among the most important Near East collections in this country, and in the world, housing more then 400,000 books relating to Near Eastern Studies in Western languages and spread over numerous libraries and collections.


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