Bonus Material: Harvard to Digitize 51,000 Rare Chinese Manuscripts

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka


Harvard University and the National of Library of China signed a multi-million dollar partnership deal on Friday to digitize 51,000 volumes of rare Chinese manuscripts.

The works will be drawn from the Harvard-Yenching Library, a collection formed by Alfred Kai-ming Chiu starting from the 1920.

The six-year project will be done in two three-year phases. The first phase, beginning in January 2010, will digitize books from the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties, which date from about 960 AD to 1644. The second phase, starting in January 2013, will digitize books from the Qing Dynasty, which date from 1644 until 1795.

According to The Boston Globe, the collection “include[s] an extensive collection of Chinese rubbings, translations of Bibles in different dialects, and manuscripts from the Naxi minority tribe in southwest China, which used one of the world’s last pictographic languages.”

“I think this project will be a huge contribution to scholarship by making these materials available to a much broader audience, said Harvard-Yenching Librarian James Cheng in a press release. “We need to change the mindset that rare materials must be kept behind closed doors. A library is not a museum. We need to begin making these materials available to scholars, and the best way to do that is through digitization.”

The deal was initially brokered over a dinner at a libraries conference in Macau last year. The National Library of China recently celebrated its 100th anniversary with an exhibition entitled “Pass on Civilization, Serve the Society.”

VISIT: The Web site for the Harvard-Yenching Library.

VIEW: The site for the National Library of China

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.