18 September 2007

UK: British Library contest winners

Those who love old books, documents and history will enjoy this announcement. Imagine if such a project were centered on Judaica items of interest to genealogists now kept in Jewish museums and libraries. While indexes and translations of historic documents are extremely useful, viewing originals adds another dimension and provides insight.

Winners and semi-finalists in a British Library-sponsored national competition to make public library treasures available via the web were announced earlier this month.

The Hidden Treasures competition ran from May 2006 through June 2007; librarians sent in some 82 entries deemed valuable for digitization and online access.

"Turning the Pages is a wonderful development technically, but its real value is in the way it makes often hidden treasures widely accessible,” said Tony Durcan, President of the Society of Chief Librarians. “I am delighted with the results and I hope that this is the start of many Turning the Pages 2.0 facilities across the United Kingdom.”

The winning libraries will each have 30 pages of their nominated item digitised, converted into Turning the Pages 2.0 format and shared with a global audience for three years via the British Library website.

The competition is designed to signify the direction of library services in the digital age. According to Elaine Fulton, Director of the Scottish Library and Information Council, “The ability to provide digital access to unique material held in our public libraries is a critical part of supporting cultural heritage, history and diversity.”

The winners are:

· Dorset Federation of Women’s Institutes War Record Book 1939-1945 (Dorset Library Service in partnership with Dorset History Centre and Dorset School Library Service) (England) – a unique volume which provides a compelling snapshot of life on the Home Front.

· The Textus Roffensis (Medway Libraries, Kent) (England) – an iconic work, compiled 1123-24, containing the first recorded English laws and the coronation oath of Henry I, which influenced the barons who drafted Magna Carta.

· The Arbuthnott Manuscripts (Renfrewshire Council) (Scotland) – a spectacular illuminated missal, containing a blood-curdling rite of excommunication, which was one of the few Scottish items of its kind to survive the Reformation.

· Sir George Leonard Staunton’s Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China, 1797 (Belfast Central Library) (Northern Ireland) – volumes containing finely detailed mezzotint plates, which describe and illustrate the visit of the first British envoy to China.

· The Diaries of William Searell of Beddgelert, Caernarfonshire, 1844-46 (Conwy County Borough Council: Libraries, Information and Culture Service) (Wales) – begun when the author was 14 and providing vivid and unique insights into mid-19th century Welsh rural life.

Semi-finalists included the Foundling Hospital Billet Book, circa 1760 (City of London Libraries) – admissions book recording the details of abandoned babies.

Read more here.

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