Tag Archives: donation

Eyeing the Future: Harkness Eye Institute’s Ophthalmology Journals Preserved at Internet Archive

When the decision was made to move the Harkness Eye Institute in New York City from its home of nearly 90 years, no one knew what to do with its vast collection of academic journals. Dr. Daniel Casper, Columbia University professor emeritus of ophthalmology, found himself tasked with the job.

Dr. Daniel Casper, Columbia University professor emeritus of ophthalmology

The Columbia University Irving Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology had operated the Institute on Manhattan’s 165th Street in Washington Heights since 1933. Its stately brick building was possible thanks to a $5 million gift from philanthropist Edward Harkness. In 1922, NY-Presbyterian Hospital announced that the current location would be demolished to create a new cancer center, and the Eye Institute would be relocated to other locations on the Medical Center campus.

The move meant emptying the 9-floor Institute, including the John M. Wheeler Library. The collection consisted of a rare book collection; more than 160 ophthalmology journals (7,000 volumes) published in English, French, Japanese, German, and Spanish, dating back to the 1800s; ophthalmic textbooks; and a collection of ophthalmic and medical memorabilia. For many years, the library maintained a small museum with antique ophthalmic instruments and other memorabilia on the first floor of the Eye Institute. In the 1950s the space was converted to clinical use so most of the museum artifacts were placed in storage. With its recent move, the department could accommodate the rare books and memorabilia, but not the large collection of journals and some textbooks—leaving the fate of the remaining items in the air.  

E. S. Harkness Eye Institute, circa 1933.

It was the end of an era for Casper, who has worked at the Institute since 1986 and was a frequent user of the library’s resources. He said he felt somewhat responsible for saving as much of the library contents as possible. “The Wheeler Collection really was on the brink of a landfill,” said Casper. 

He spent his first year of retirement looking for a suitable home for the library contents. Recognizing the unique historic value of many of the journals, he approached the National Library of Medicine, the National Eye Institute, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology Museum, among others, all of whom replied in a similar manner—they had neither the space nor the resources to maintain the collection. 

Casper had no luck finding a place to rehouse the sizable donation, until he reached out to the Internet Archive. Soon after making contact, an Archive staffer in New York came to take measurements to ship the remaining Wheeler Collection to the Archive. A few days later, a truck arrived and 23 pallets of journals and books were loaded. The items will be safely stored in a physical archive and scanned so the public can have digital access online.   

“The preservation and electronic dissemination of this collection is truly a dream come true,” Casper said, who appreciates that the donation process was seamless, with no charge to the university, and the journals will live on for future generations in a more accessible format.

“I did not realize the Internet Archive would take a collection like this. People spent huge amounts of effort putting these works together. It would have been unfortunate to just throw it all away.”
Dr. Daniel Casper,
Columbia University professor emeritus

Tracking older print articles that have never been digitized can be time consuming for researchers, and many previous studies are overlooked because they can be difficult to identify and locate, Casper said. With digital access to journals, researchers can avoid reinventing the wheel in their research and build on past scholarly evidence more easily, he said.

“I did not realize the Internet Archive would take a collection like this,” Casper said. “People spent huge amounts of effort putting these works together. It would have been unfortunate to just throw it all away. That would imply the collection is worthless, but it has value.”

Casper hopes the digitization of the Wheeler Collection leads to an acceleration of advances in science as researchers will eventually have free, online access to this invaluable collection of knowledge.

“I’ve become an Internet Archive booster. It saved us,” he said. “The Internet Archive is an incredible resource.”

The Book Collector’s Legacy: Preserving the Personal Library of Rabbi Simon Noveck

Growing up in New Jersey, Beth Noveck says she was surrounded by so many books in her home that it felt like a library.

Simon and Doris Noveck. Image credit: Reiner Leist, American Portraits
Prestel Publishing, 1999

Her father, Simon Noveck, was a voracious reader. A rabbi with a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, Simon collected books about Jewish philosophy, history, and sociology. Her mother, Doris, was interested in books about the arts and cooking. Together, they traveled around the world and often brought home souvenirs in the form of books, including a Turkish dictionary and a guidebook from a Jewish cemetery in Prague.

Over the years, the Novecks amassed a collection of more than 10,000 volumes. After they died (Simon in 2005; Doris in 2022), the family had to decide what to do with all the books.

“My parents had always talked about the idea of building a lending library, creating a home for the collection that people could access,” said Beth, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

While storing the items in a physical library was not feasible, Beth said the Internet Archive provided the perfect solution: Digitizing the collection.

Donating the collection

The donation process started by completing the Internet Archive’s physical item donation form. She then got in touch with the Internet Archive team who helped answer questions about the deduplication, packing and shipping process.

“We work with prospective donors to make sure that the valuable information in their collections will be unique to our library,” said Liz Rosenberg, Internet Archive’s donations manager. “Once we determine the collection will help add new resources to our library we help coordinate the logistics of getting the collection to the physical archives. There can be all sorts of logistics puzzles involved in physical item donations, especially for sizable donations like this one, like how to box books for efficient storage and transport. It’s always meaningful to work with families to help honor the legacy of their loved ones by preserving the materials they curated over time.”

Boxing and moving the collection.

In November, the family donated approximately 5,000 books in 200 boxes—every book from the collection that the Archive did not already have online. Staff from the Internet Archive provided the boxes, staff and two trucks to move the items from New Jersey to the physical archives. The items will eventually be scanned, cataloged and available for free to the public online.

“I can think of no better way to honor my father’s memory and all the work that he did to create this collection,” Beth said. “This way his legacy continues, and other people get to benefit from the work that he did. I’m so thrilled and grateful for this opportunity.”

Download for iPhone / Android

To decide what to donate, Beth and her son, Amedeo Bettauer, 14, used the Donate Books app (iPhone / Android) from the Internet Archive to review each book to see if it would be new to the collection or a duplicate. The books had been moved to a family member’s house in New Jersey, where Beth and Amedeo went over the course of five weekends last fall (by plane, car or train) to sort out the collection.

“It was an occasion for a lot of reminiscence, wonderful stories and exchange of memories,” Beth said.

Understanding the collection

Born in 1914, Simon had served congregations in New York City and Hartford, Connecticut; was the head of adult education for B’Nai Brith; and wrote several books about Jewish history, sociology and philosophy. Living far from a research library in rural New Jersey, Beth said her parents frequently bought books and remained in touch with the wider world through their reading.

Sample book from the donation.

For Amedeo, who never met his grandfather, the process was a chance to learn more about his family’s history.

“Books really do reflect a person,” Amedeo said. “Getting to see my grandfather’s entire collection gave me a window into who he was, as a man, which was very interesting. There were some moments where I thought, ‘Wait, that’s a book that I might have gotten or that I even have.’ It was very enlightening to see.”

Amedeo and Beth said they were amazed at the breadth of the collection, including papers from U.S. presidents, and rare books on a variety of topics. The process was both sentimental and enjoyable, Beth said, knowing that her father had read every book they sorted. A long-time fan and supporter of the Internet Archive, she said it was very satisfying for the family to know that so much of the collection will be preserved.

“A lot of my grandfather’s books were very esoteric, so he might have been the only person left that had a physical copy of a certain book,” Amedeo said. “To have that be lost or destroyed would be a catastrophic loss of knowledge. This way the collection is digitized and forever available to everyone for free. I think it’s what my grandparents would have wanted.”

Colgate University Libraries Donates to Expanding Government Document Microfiche Collection

Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology, Colgate University. Photo credit: Colgate University Office of University Communications.

From 1970 to 2004, Colgate University amassed as many as 1.5 million microfiche cards with documents from the U.S. federal government. 

The small, private liberal arts institution housed the collection in a central location accessible to the former reference service point and the circulation desk in Hamilton, New York. 

“Every single campus tour that goes through the library walks past this collection. Our well meaning student ambassadors would announce ‘Here’s our microfiche that no one uses,’” said Debbie Krahmer, accessible technology & government documents librarian at Colgate. 

Since the popularity of the miniaturized thumbnails of pages waned several years ago, many libraries have struggled with what to do with their microfiche collections, as they contain important information but are difficult to use. 

Krahmer was looking for ways to offload the materials and discovered the Internet Archive would accept microfiche donations for digitization. It was a way to preserve the content, make it easier for the public to access, and avoid putting the microfiche in a landfill.

“These government documents are meant to be available and accessible to the general public. For many there’s still a lot of good information in this collection,” said Courtney L. Young, the university librarian. “While the microfiche has been stored in large metal cabinets on the main level, many of our users do not see them. This project will improve that visibility and accessibility.”

About the donation

In July, the Internet Archive arranged for the twelve cabinets of microfiche, each in excess of 600 pounds, to be loaded onto pallets and shipped to the Internet Archive for preservation and digitization. Materials include Census data, documents from the Department of Education, Congressional testimony, CIA documents, and foreign news translated into English. 

Microfiche cabinets ready for shipping to the Internet Archive for preservation and digitization.

Colgate also gave indexes of the microfiche that will be “game changers” for other government libraries once they are digitized because the volumes are expensive and hard to acquire, Krahmer added. 

Krahmer said the moving process with the Internet Archive was easy and would recommend the option to other librarians.

“This is a lot easier than trying to figure out how to get these materials recycled,” Krahmer said. “In addition to improving discovery and access, this supports the university’s sustainability plan. It’s going to get digitized, be made available online, and preserved. This is win-win no matter how you look at it.”

Public access to government publications

Government documents from microfiche are coming to archive.org based on the combined efforts of the Internet Archive and its Federal Depository Library Program library partners. The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), founded in 1813, provides designated libraries with copies of bills, laws, congressional hearings, regulations, and executive and judicial branch documents and reports to share with the public.

Colgate joins Claremont Colleges, Evergreen State College, University of Alberta, University of California San Francisco, and the University of South Carolina that have contributed over 70 million pages on over one million microfiche cards. Other libraries are welcome to join this project.

Music Library Association Opens Publications at Internet Archive

For librarians who specialize in caring for music collections, it can be challenging to keep up with the latest technology and resources in the profession. The Music Library Association recently helped address this problem by making many of its publications openly available online.

The MLA donated 21 of its monographs to the Internet Archive for digitization and worked with authors to make the material free to the public under Creative Commons licenses. 

The new collection of backlist titles includes information on careers in music librarianship and history of the field. It also covers planning and building music library collections, which can be complicated and involve individual creators and small publishers, said Kathleen DeLaurenti, who helped lead the partnership with the Internet Archive in her role as MLA’s first open access editor. There are also valuable materials on music library approaches to technical services—everything from how to preserve music materials to how to bind and catalog them.

“Increasingly in librarianship, we have people who are being tasked to do this work who don’t have a specialized background, especially in smaller organizations, rural places, and public libraries,” DeLaurenti said. “We’re really excited to be able to make this content available to folks who may not have access to professional development in those spaces, and who may be looking for some materials to bolster their training and their own work.”

The MLA has been publishing new research of interest to music librarians since the 1970s and wanted to find a platform to make the information easier to discover, said DeLaurenti, director of the Arthur Friedheim Library at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The Internet Archive provided the open infrastructure to share and leverage the work of the MLA, which is a small organization with about 1,000 members.

While the MLA began with 21 of the monographs, it is working to obtain rights clearance for an additional 20 titles and DeLaurenti hopes the online collection will grow. So far, authors have been excited that the association is making their work available as it increases access for scholars with the potential for more citations of their research.

The audience for the online collection will likely be “accidental music librarians”—people tasked with music library responsibilities who aren’t musicians but are looking for professional development resources in the area, DeLaurenti said, as well as individuals considering music librarianship as a career.

“As libraries are looking at what kinds of open infrastructure is out there and available, I think the work that the Internet Archive has done through COVID has really changed our perception and how they can work as a potential collaborator in that space,” DeLaurenti said. “We hope to continue different kinds of collaborations with [the Archive] in the future.”

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Cooking Up a New Home for 33,000 Culinary and Hospitality Books

Centennial Hall Denver campus photo shoot April 2016. photo: Mike Cohea

Johnson & Wales University started as a business school in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1914, expanding over the years to offer 80 majors on multiple campuses.

In June 2021, declining enrollment led JWU to consolidate, closing its North Miami and Denver locations. This left the future of the university’s library collection at those sites in limbo. To save the collection, JWU Denver donated 33,000 books—primarily from its culinary and hospitality programs—to the Internet Archive to be preserved, digitized and many will be lent digitally.

Merrie Valliant, director of library services at JWU’s campus in Denver, curated the rich collection, encompassing titles dating back to the early 1900s. The hospitality section contains books on all aspects of the hotel and restaurant business including management, leadership, and accounting. There are books on menu planning, food science and nutrition. And the assortment of cookbooks covers global cuisines and novelties, including Balinese and Indonesian food, an Antarctic expedition cookbook from 1945 with recipes for penguins and walruses—and even books on just a single ingredient, such as strawberries.

“We had cookbooks from all countries, all states and every continent. If someone were to look for an interesting recipe of Jamaican jerk or a good creole recipe from Louisiana, they would be able to find it,” Valliant said.

“The Internet Archive is going to keep it alive…It’s truly the library of the future…”

Merrie Valliant, director of library services, JWU Denver

With JWU’s 12,000 students only attending classes now in Providence, Rhode Island, and Charlotte, North Carolina, the library needed to downsize, and donating was the best option, Valiant said. In addition to the hospitality books, the donation included books on sports and event management, as well as books on criminal justice, business, law, history and fashion design.

The collection is clearly a treasure, said Liz Rosenberg, manager of donations for the Internet Archive.

“Merrie had been the librarian caring for these books for the past 20 years and she shared her hope that more students might be able to continue being inspired by the collection,” Rosenberg said. “Her dedication to the library at the Johnson and Wales Denver campus and her students was what got the Internet Archive so excited about preserving this great collection. We are pleased it can live on digitally.”

Pallets of books from JWU Denver staged for transport.

In May, Valliant, student workers, and volunteers helped fill more than 900 boxes with books from the Denver library. The 45 pallets were transported to the Internet Archive where they will be preserved and queued for scanning. “I had cataloged and touched almost every book on the shelf,” Valliant said. “It really was difficult to watch it being driven away. It felt like a family saying goodbye to a distinct part of their life.”

Yet, the books will have a future audience for years to come.

“The Internet Archive is going to keep it alive,” Valliant said. “It’s truly the library of the future where you can access it 24/7/365 when you need it.  I think it’s wonderful that we’ve been able to contribute to that collection of information.”

***

If you have a collection that you would like to make available to all, the Internet Archive would be happy to preserve and digitize your materials:

  • Check out our help center article for more information about donating physical items to the Internet Archive.
  • Watch the recent webinar about our physical donations program.

Filecoin Foundation Grants 50,000 FIL to the Internet Archive

Amidst the speculative boom for NFTs and crypto-currencies, one decentralized technology foundation is taking the long view by investing in deep history and the far future. 

Today, the Filecoin Foundation announced a 50,000 FIL grant to the Internet Archive – the largest single donation in the digital library’s 25-year history. 

“Holy Crow! This is a big deal,” said Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder. “And what are we going to do with it? We’re going to invest it in making the Internet Archive more decentralized, so that our digital history is available from thousands of computers, not just a few. The idea is to make a robust and private Internet that has a history that will persist over decades and maybe centuries.”

Filecoin is a decentralized storage system designed to preserve humanity’s most important information. The creators of Filecoin envisioned an independent foundation that would serve as the long-term governance body for the Filecoin ecosystem. In awarding the grant to the Internet Archive, Filecoin Foundation board chair, Marta Belcher, stressed the two organizations’ “common goal of preserving the web and fostering its future.”

It was back in 2015 that Protocol Labs‘ founder, Juan Benet, first visited the Internet Archive, to share his vision for an academic conference dedicated to preserving “humanity’s greatest treasures using decentralized storage.” Building on these conversations, the Internet Archive organized the  Decentralized Web Summit in 2016 in San Francisco, the first gathering of its kind. Back then, a decentralized web was mostly a concept, with little working code.

Decentralized technologists, Trent McConaghy of Ocean and Juan Benet of Protocol Labs at the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit at the Internet Archive in San Francisco.

Since 2016, the Internet Archive has worked with several decentralized tech startups to create a decentralized prototype of the digital library. And when the Filecoin main net took off in 2020, stored in Filecoin servers were public domain audiobooks and films from the Internet Archive. Together, the two organizations created the Filecoin Archives, a community-led project to curate, disseminate and preserve important open access to information often at risk of being lost.

“It’s wonderful to see Filecoin come of age. We started six years ago by putting out a call to make a Decentralized Web, a web that would serve us better than the current web–one that is now starting to be dominated by just a few tech behemoths. Can we make a game with many winners?” asked Kahle. “Filecoin has made a huge step forward by deploying decentralized storage at the exabyte level. That’s very different from AWS (Amazon Web Services). It has many participants, not just one player. And its protocols are open-source. We want to see more technologies like this. This was the original vision of the Decentralized Web that the Internet Archive was hoping for five, six years ago. And it’s starting to come to fruition and Filecoin is a leader in that area.”

Although purveyors of cryptocurrencies are often accused of being driven only by short-term gain, in this group Kahle sees a different motivation. “This donation by the Filecoin Foundation is significant financially for the Internet Archive, but I’d say it’s a more interesting one than that,” said the Internet Hall of Fame engineer. “It’s a donation by a new generation of technologists that are building interesting new technologies…bringing the Archive along with it to make it so that history is preserved –that the Internet Archive makes it into this next generation. That is an interesting thing! You don’t often see that. But the Filecoin Foundation, Filecoin and IPFS, and Juan Benet himself have always been interested in preserving history and how history can be woven into the present and the future of these technologies.”