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Project Launch Press Release, December 1, 2009



December 1, 2009

Emily Cain

Jordan Gray, Georgetown University

Deanna Vincent, Kirtas Technologies
585-924-2420 x3037





Federally-Funded Project Will Evaluate Automatic Book Scanning Methodology by Digitizing Selected Middle Eastern and North African Works


WASHINGTON– Rare Middle Eastern and North African works will be made available online through a federally-funded project launched today by The George Washington University, Kirtas Technologies and Georgetown University.  The state-of-the-art project, Cultural Imaginings: the Creation of the Arab World in the Western Mind, will evaluate automatic book digitization systems by electronically scanning selected rare works.  The project was made possible through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded to GW’s Gelman Library to evaluate digitizing technology made by Kirtas Technologies.  As part of the evaluation process, Gelman Library, along with Georgetown’s Joseph Mark Lauinger Library, will digitize more than 2,500 books and items from special collections from both universities. 


"We are very pleased to undertake the ‘Cultural Imaginings project’ at The George Washington University’s Gelman Library in conjunction with our colleagues at Georgetown University and with the support of the Institute for Museum and Library Services,” said Jack Siggins, GW University Librarian. “It will allow us to evaluate innovative, cutting edge digitization technology, while at the same time digitizing and preserving rare and valuable collections.”


The Cultural Imaginings project, launched today at an event at GW’s Gelman Library, will systematically evaluate the costs associated with automated digitization systems and produce findings on productivity as well as updated and detailed price quotes for digitization that include scanning, post-processing, integration of metadata and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Scanned images and text will be run through OCR, converting typed and printed characters to digital text. Simultaneously, the project will showcase Gelman Library’s Special Collections and create a center of excellence at Gelman for digitization, particularly for rare book and other archival collections.  The two-year IMLS grant provides Gelman Library with funds to purchase, staff and operate the digitization systems and manage the Cultural Imaginings project.  The total cost of the project is approximately $1.6 million.


The project will focus on digitizing and highlighting holdings from Middle Eastern collections at The George Washington and Georgetown Universities, including monographic volumes and a number of bound manuscripts documenting the Middle East and North Africa from ca. 1450 through the early 20th Century.  Works will be chosen from GW’s Middle Eastern Institute Rare Book Collection, I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection and Andrew Oliver Archaeology Collection, as well as Georgetown University’s Department of Special Collections.  These works depict Western conceptions of and reflections on Arabic and Islamic cultures, lands, and practices, as well as Arabic and Islamic commentary and conceptions of life in the West.  All content digitized will be freely available for public viewing.


"'Out of sight, out of mind,' they say,” said James O’Donnell, Georgetown University Provost.

“For too many of us, too much of the cultural heritage of the globe is out of sight, and we know it poorly.  Projects like this make knowledge – make culture – visible and give us the chance to make a better job of our common humanity.” 


The digitization systems include the KABIS III and Skyview systems by Kirtas Technologies, among the most sophisticated commercial book scanning systems available.  Scanning 3,000 pages per hour, the KABIS III contains two 21.1 megapixel cameras that generate high quality images and allow the scanner to scan both the left and right pages at the same time.  The KABIS III also features a Robotic Digitization System, a robotic arm that uses an adjustable vacuum system to gently turn rare and fragile pages. The robotic arm is more gentle than a human hand and automatically flattens the scanned pages.  


“This digitization project of rare and special Middle Eastern and North African collections exemplifies how digitization can be this amazing vehicle for not only enabling the renewal and the discovery of invaluable material that is otherwise hidden from the public eye, but also building robust bridges of cultural exchanges and scholarly exploration that elevate the value of our collective human knowledge to a whole new level,” said Kirtas Founder and CEO Lotfi Belkhir. “For Kirtas to be associated with such an endeavor is both an honor and a confirmation of our raison-d’etre.


About The George Washington University

Located in the heart of the nation's capital, The George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in Washington, D.C. The University offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries. For more information about The George Washington University, visit www.gwu.edu.


About Kirtas Technologies

Kirtas Technologies has pioneered and perfected the technology used today in quality, high-speed, nondestructive mass digitization. A proven workflow ensuring superior image quality, advanced search capabilities, unique archiving technology, and extensive metadata enabling multiple output options that stand the test of time are what set us apart and keep Kirtas at the forefront of the digital revolution. Learn more at www.kirtas.com.


About Georgetown University

Georgetown University is the oldest and largest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. Georgetown today is a major student-centered, international, research university offering respected undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in Washington, DC, Doha, Qatar and around the world. For more information about Georgetown University, visit www.georgetown.edu.


About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.


For more information about GW’s Gelman Library, please visit: http://www.gelman.gwu.edu/.





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