Islamic Manuscripts Digitization

The University of Michigan Library has received a CLIR grant to provide specialized access to Islamic manuscripts. Users of the site will be able to contribute to the description/cataloging of each item. We are digitizing 1250 manuscripts as part of this project, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share the following summary of the process.

A combination of in-house and out-sourced digitization is used to digitize the Islamic Manuscripts. It is only recently that we began outsourcing Special Collections materials for digitization, and we are doing pre- and post-process evaluations of a representative sample in order to assess damage and measure risk. Results are not yet available. Conversion of the 1,250 Islamic Manuscripts will span the duration of the 3 year project.

Each manuscript is given an acid-free bookmark with a barcode. The barcodes allows DCU to track the progress of each manuscript inhouse or at the vendor. Because the manuscripts are unpaginated, DCU staff adds page numbers in pencil to the upper outer corners of each page, for the ease of verifying that all pages have been digitized and for scholars to refer to particular pages in their studies. The pages are numbered back-to-front, in a manner consistent with the reading of the text.

Approximately 70% of the volumes are to be done in-house because they deserve special handling. We use an overhead color scanner with relatively gentle lights to capture color page images as 400 ppi 24-bit color TIFFs. A scanning operator turns the pages by hand, with the utmost concern being to digitize the pages without harming the manuscript. When concern arises over the condition of the manuscript, the manuscript is taken to the Conservation department for consultation, and adjustments are made to the digitization process. Each manuscript is captured from cover to cover to ensure that every part of the item is represented. Each page is cropped to just outside the page edge, both to prevent cropping away the page numbers, and to give scholars the opportunity to see the condition of the page edges. We have a Zeutschel OS10000 overhead color scanner currently, and will be purchasing a CopiBook HD Book Scanner*** to bolster our capacity.

[*** Correction July 14, 2009: The CopiBook Book Scanner is one of the products being considered. A decision has not yet been made.]

The remaining 20% are outsourced to Trigonix Inc. in Montreal, Canada. We have a long working relationship with Trigonix and they do excellent work. The vended cost per page, for color scanning of bound volumes on their overhead color scanners manually, is about $0.30USD. For comparison, the per page cost of black and white scanning of unbound volumes is $0.09USD. We are very satisfied with the quality of the vended scans created by Trigonix for this project.

Preservation and access will be handled by HathiTrust in addition to the site mentioned above where users will be able to make contributions to the cataloging. Location to be determined.

Thanks to Larry Wentzel for his contributions to this write-up.