Digital Collections and Initiatives at PUL

Princeton University Library (PUL) has recently been expanding its digital access to our rare and unique collections. While there can be no substitute for experiencing these items in person, online access does provide complementary opportunities, including the ability to examine the physical attributes of the material in greater detail without special equipment, and at least a surrogate experience for those who cannot travel to Princeton for exhibitions such as In the Company of Good Books. Additionally, the digital component of the exhibition will persist online long after the gallery exhibition has been taken down.

This exhibition uses Digital PUL for digital collections and online exhibitions at PUL. Built on a platform that was developed in collaboration with several of our peer research institutions, Digital PUL provides a new home for our ever-growing number of thematic digital collections and exhibitions, as well as accompanying content from librarians, curators, and other subject experts.

This is, however, only one of several portals through which Princeton’s rich set of digitized material is available: we also have specialized portals for thousands of historic and contemporary maps, hundreds of issues of regional newspapers, tens of thousands of pages of archival documents, and ephemeral material from around the world.

While our digitization efforts to date have largely focused on the imaging of books, manuscripts, and other artifacts in order to increase or enhance access, we are also leveraging digitization for the long-term preservation of the Library’s collections. Audio-visual materials in particular, as well as other magnetic media (remember 5¼” floppy disks?) present a new set of challenges as we look to preserve obsolete formats and technologies. In accordance with the Library’s mission, digitization or conversion into contemporary formats—remediation, as it is sometimes referred to in this case—is our best strategy for ensuring access to these primary resources for future generations.

Jon Stroop, Director of Library Information Technology and Digital Services