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DigiCULT
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Info
14
Catherine Lupovici, Directeur,
Département de la Bibliothèque
Numérique, Bibliothèque
Nationale de France
T
he Director of the Digital Library
department at the Bibliothèque
Nationale de France, Catherine Lupovici,
describes digitisation at the library over the
relatively short period of the last sixteen
years. Having previously worked in a pri-
vate digitisation company, Lupovici's sig-
nificant technical knowledge informs her
discussion of the work of her department
within the BnF.
`
The BnF began to consider electronic
resources at the same time as constructing
the new building in 1988. The aim was to
create an encyclopaedic version of the doc-
uments held by the library. Progress towards
creating these digital resources began in
1989 and the digitisation of our collec-
tions started in 1992. We began with print-
ed documents and the cultural heritage of
the library: our unique material and special
collections. After 10 years, we had digitised
over 30 million printed pages.'
`
At the moment, over 20 million of these
are in the public domain and many are
available online from GALLICA (http://
gallica.bnf.fr/), the online section of the
digital library of the BnF. The remaining
pages have current copyright restrictions
and are instead accessible via our intranet,
with the rights to view and print and so
forth carefully managed', Lupovici explains.
Documents for the digital library are pri-
marily processed in image mode for techni-
cal reasons and are selected for digitisation
based on both their rarity and their copy-
right situation. In addition to textual mate-
rials, la Bibliothèque Numérique holds
100,000 digitised images drawn from col-
lections outside the BnF and from patrimo-
nial collections among its own departments.
`
In addition to printed materials and
images, the audiovisual department in
the library is also digitising sound. During
planning for the new building, we bought
10,000 audio CDs that were made availa-
ble to visitors through robots ­ after search-
ing the catalogue and selecting a record, the
robot would then play it for the user. We
also make moving image material available;
for example, analogue VHS tapes are digi-
tised on the fly and stored locally before
being delivered to users, but we don't store
the digital copy long term.' GALLICA
also now offers access to multimedia doc-
uments, and, as its Director explains, the
Département de la Bibliothèque Numérique
is now beginning to look towards longer-
term solutions: Of course, our systems were
designed ten years ago, so now the audiovis-
ual department is changing its strategy and
beginning to digitise for the long term. We
now understand that digitisation is critical
for conservation of these materials, as well as
facilitating access. The 80,000 titles represent
400 terabytes of storage ­ and some of the
originals are under threat, so quality digitisa-
tion is imperative.'
`
GALLICA was designed to deliver mate-
rials online; however, the masters were
also carefully preserved, most being stored
on glass disks. Although we used to photo-
graph materials in both analogue and dig-
ital formats, the reprographic world has
changed, and digital photography is devel-
oping so quickly that we now use the ini-
tial high-quality digital reproduction as
the master rather than the analogue pho-
tograph for our colour materials. Slowly,
the analogue cameras are being phased out
­ we currently have mixed cameras that
take both an analogue and a digital photo-
graph at the same time, but this equipment
is expensive and so is only being replaced
in some departments such as Special
Collections, while other departments are
moving to digital only. Of course, we store
reproductions in different formats for dif-
ferent purposes so that they can be more
easily supplied on demand for our users.'
`
It is important to remember that we are
not acting as a publisher but as a reposi-
tory. Therefore we are not aiming to deliv-
er finished digital products, but to retain
the same methods and mission as we did
when recording materials in analogue for-
mat. Tools do exist to, for example, digit-
ally `clean up' old films or to remove noise
in audio tracks, but the BnF's purpose is to
offer our users a trusted source for materi-
als, not to attempt to restore them.'
W
hen asked about the progress of
the work of the Département de la
Bibliothèque Numérique across the library,
Lupovici pauses to consider. `Digitisation
within an institution such as this is much
more complex than merely the techni-
cal aspects. Some departments simply
aren't ready for digitisation ­ in terms of
accepting that it has become a necessity
for the preservation of their materials. XX
Catherine Lupovici
Initial work on the digitisation of resources began at the same time as the
building of the new Bibliothèque Nationale
©
Daisy
Abbott,

HA
TII,

Uni
v
er
sity
of
Glasgo
w
,

2004
`We don't have any choice but
to digitise now, or important
materials will be lost.'
©
Daisy
Abbott,

HA
TII,

Uni
v
er
sity
of
Glasgo
w
,

2004