Wellcome Library launches major digitisation project

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By | Digital Developments

The Crick papers, the Triplet code, 1961.  Wellcome Images No. L0033400.

The Crick papers, the Triplet code, 1961.
Wellcome Images No. L0033400.

The Wellcome Library has announced the launch of an ambitious digitisation project, to provide free, online access to its collections, including archives and papers from Nobel prize-winning scientists Francis Crick, Fred Sanger and Peter Medawar:

“Creation of the Wellcome Digital Library will throw open the doors of the Wellcome Library and its unique collections to a worldwide audience, providing a global resource for the study of the history of medicine and modern bioscience.

The Wellcome Trust has approved a budget of £3.9 million to begin a two-year pilot project on the theme of Modern Genetics and its Foundations. Drawing on the Wellcome Library’s internationally renowned collections, content will include 1400 books on genetics and heredity published between 1850 and 1990, along with important archives including the papers of Francis Crick and his original drawings of the proposed structure of DNA.

Sketch of the DNA double helix by Francis Crick  Wellcome Images No. B0004367

Sketch of the DNA double helix by Francis Crick
Wellcome Images No. B0004367

Director of the Wellcome Trust, Sir Mark Walport, explains the choice of the pilot theme: “Modern genetics has made a tremendous impact on our understanding of human and animal health in recent years, and so it makes sense that the Library would begin digitising its collections in this important area of medical history. This project marks the first step on a long road which we hope will lead ultimately to free online access to all of our collections.”

‘In addition to our unique and spectacular collections, we have a team of experts who can offer interpretations to place the collections in their cultural and historical contexts’.

The aim is to provide a documentary record of modern genetics, not only from a scientific perspective, but also from political, economic, technological, social, cultural and personal viewpoints.

‘Free, online access to these highly significant manuscripts and books will be a wonderful resource for historians of medical science and others interested in genetics. It will transform what we can do,’ said Dr Nick Hopwood, a medical historian at the University of Cambridge. ‘As the Wellcome Digital Library expands, I expect it to play a major role in stimulating research and debate.’

In addition to content from the Wellcome Library, up to £1 million of the fund will be used to support digitisation of relevant material from partner institutions in the UK and overseas.

Users will be able to access the repository following completion of the pilot phase of digitisation, slated for completion in September 2012.”

This project will see up to 1m images digitised from the Wellcome Library’s archival and book holdings. The library will also build a digital library system to manage and preserve the content over the long term, and to display digital content in easy-to-use, flexible, and engaging ways.

Christy Henshaw

Christy Henshaw

Christy Henshaw manages digitisation at the Wellcome Library. @Chenshaw. Linkedin

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