Yale Library Gets Grant to Create Virtual Gallery of Islamic Manuscripts

Yale University Library and the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) have received a joint grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the United Kingdom to create a virtual gallery of Islamic manuscripts.

The project, which will be known as the Yale-SOAS Islamic Manuscript Gallery, will improve access to trans-Atlantic collections of manuscripts and manuscript catalogues and dictionaries held by Yale and SOAS, creating a digital archive that will be accessible to researchers in the fields of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies. This one-year grant of approximately $240,000 continues the Yale Library’s current Arabic digitization efforts, which have been in development since 2001.

Yale University Librarian Alice Prochaska said, “Yale and SOAS are committed to supporting scholarship on the Middle East by making our rich and unique collections available to researchers and students around the world. This robust digital partnership will also act as a model for other institutions and repositories.”

Manuscript catalogues and dictionaries, most of which exist only in print, are important sources for locating individual manuscripts and manuscript collections. Drawing on the expertise of faculty, librarians and information specialists in both Britain and the United States, the project will scan approximately 20,000 pages in Arabic, Persian and Western scripts and will make them available in a sophisticated searchable repository. Yale and SOAS will also digitize and index historical manuscripts from their collections that highlight the contribution to world knowledge made by Islamic philosophers, physicians and scientists. The Gallery will also serve as a model for other special collections and libraries with manuscript and reference material holdings.

Ann Okerson, Yale’s Associate University Librarian for Collections and International Programs and principal investigator on the project, noted, “Our success in this very competitive grant process is a tribute to the significant efforts of Yale’s and SOAS’s expert technical managers and curatorial leaders.”

Yale was one of the earliest American colleges to offer instruction in Arabic and Islamic culture, beginning in 1841 with the appointment of the first professor of Arabic and Sanskrit in the United States. Today, Yale University Library is a leader in digitizing Arabic and Middle Eastern collections and manages Project AMEEL (A Middle Eastern Electronic Library), whose current components include OACIS (Online Access to Consolidated Information on Serials for the Middle East), and Iraq ReCollection, which is digitizing a select group of important scholarly Iraqi journals.