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Persian Language Rare Materials Digitization Project

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>>Eugene Flanagan: Again,
good morning to everybody. I’m Eugene Flanagan. I’m director of general and
international collections here at the Library of Congress. And on behalf of the Library
we’d like to thank you for joining us today
in celebration of the Library’s Persian
Language Rare Materials Digitization Project which
was launched on March 20th, the first day of spring and the
start of the Persian new year. The Library of Congress,
as you probably know, is the world’s largest library. And it’s my great good
fortune to be associated with our international
collections which cover most regions
of the world and do so across an estimated
470 languages. For many areas of the world,
our collections are the finest and most comprehensive research
collections outside the country of origin. And for other regions
in the world where more immediate human
needs take precedence, the collections are a vital
complement to what may or may not be available locally. Today we are shining a light
on one special collection in particular, the Library’s
Persian Language Rare Materials. These documents span
800 years from the 13th through the 19th centuries,
crossing Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, India,
central Asia, the Caucuses and regions under Ottoman rule. And speaking to us in Persian,
Arabic, Ottoman Turkish and other languages on subjects
as varied as literature, philosophy, religion,
science and history. It is quite simply a
remarkable fusion of inquiry and discovery across time. Given this breadth and depth,
it is also my great good fortune that the library has marvelous
experts who in turn know willing and able guests,
scholars and students who together will
be breathing life into the collections
for you today. I thank them for their
contributions to research and learning in this, the
early part of the 21st century. Our panel this morning is
comprised of prominent scholars, museum specialists and
the library’s experts, will discuss the
collection in its historical and scholarly context. After the break, we’ll
hear from those who worked on the collections,
preservation, cataloging, digitization and public access. And then the final discussion,
the panelists address how we, the Library of Congress, use
our international materials for education and
lifelong learning. I’m now going to turn you
over to the very capable hands of the acting chief
of the African and Middle Eastern
Division, Joan Weeks, who will give a short overview of AMED’s digitization
projects past and present before
introducing our first panel. Thank you very much
and enjoy the morning. Joan? [ Applause ]>>Joan Weeks: Well
good morning, everyone. It is my distinct pleasure
and very humble experience to introduce kind
of a run-through of AMED’s digitization projects
and programs past and present. We were an early
adopter of digitization. And that’s one of the things I
want to focus on this morning, is innovation and
cutting edge technology. And this has inspired
such prolifera of digitization projects. So in 2003 — that
one went blank on me, so I’ll look over here. 2003, we digitized the
ancient manuscripts from the desert libraries
of Timbuktu. And one of the things that
I thought was so funny about this first one,
just a little intrigue, because by digitizing
things, not only do you get to see them outside
of their boxes — few people can see them. But the curators
spend a lot of energy and effort interpreting
the digital object. And you learn so much more about that particular
little image or product. And this one was the laws
of commerce in verse. And so this ancient way
of telling people the laws of commerce, maybe they
couldn’t all see it. But they memorized it. And they set it to verse so
it was easier to memorize. And I never would have realized
that just looking at it. But here on the screen,
because of the interpretation, we learn that interesting
little fact about that particular
manuscript. Moving right on, the next
big initiative was the Global Gateway. This was an amazing process where digital projects could be
uploaded on the early website. And people could
begin to see those. From 2004-2005 we had the
Islamic manuscripts from Mali. And there were 32 manuscripts
from the [foreign name] Library. And this was in Timbuktu. It really helped bring
those to the forefront. And the next thing that
we had was the beautiful calligraphy sheets. And these are still amazing. Researchers are all the
time asking for these. They want to see those. I just had a reference inquiry
just a couple weeks ago. To be able to actually examine
these online has been a huge — very popular thing
for researchers. Another thing that
happened in the process of digitization was
the realization that we could do web archiving. There were websites that were
very ephemeral in nature. They are endangered because of
the crisis and certain things. People can pull them down
at a moment’s notice, block access to them. And Ahmed was an early
adapter of archiving websites. And this is an example in the
crisis in Darfur in the Sudan. And you still can go in
and view those websites that are no longer up online. Another Global Gateway was
the cuneiform tablets in 2007. They had these wedge-shaped
reed stylus to make impressions in these clay tablets. And to be able to see
these in close proximity. Another one was the Afghan
photo album digitized in 2008. And one of the things
about this, it talks about the Second
Anglo-Afghan war in 1878-1880. And it kind of parallels a lot that has been going
on till today. And that’s an invaluable
resource for researchers to be able to see this online. Then in 2008 there was the
Egyptian Web Archiving Project. And this focused on Egypt’s
amazing democratic Arab Spring process. And that was an undertaking that these democratic movements
enveloped the entire region. And to be able to go
back and do analysis on those endangered websites that no longer exist
has been very popular. Then in 2009 after years
of effort, particularly by Dr. Billington and
UNESCO, 26 institutions in 19 countries contributed
content to the launch of the World Digital Library. And Ahmed was right at
the forefront of this, working with Bibliotech
Alexandrina and the National Library of
Egypt and in fact sent people to Egypt to work with them
on this digitization project. And then in — just after
that in 2015 the manuscripts in St. Catherine’s
monastery were digitized. And what the innovation is
there, these were on microfilm. And we’re not talking about just
taking a book and scanning it. We’re talking about
an innovation — it was done through a contractor
to be able to take reels of microfilm that
are very difficult to use and access and find. And all of these
manuscripts were beautiful but very difficult to use. And now you can completely
use them online. And then in 2018 I
was project manager for the Abdul Hamid
Gift Book Collection. And these were gifted to the
library by the sultan in 1884. And the unique story is
that he had these inscribed to the National Library of
Congress, over 300 books in his royal printing
shop specially bound. And it was by a friendship that
developed with Abram Hewitt, the member of Congress from
New York, and the sultan. An unusual story
you’ll learn online. But to be able to have those —
and it’s been extremely popular with scholars and
researchers in Ottoman studies and across the way, let alone
how many world leaders practice book diplomacy and
inscribe book collections to the Library of Congress. Then in February 2019 we
digitized the Omar Ibn Said slave narrative collection. This was a very, very long
time acquisition in process. And finally it was in
fruition, that many, many people on the team here
at the Library of Congress. And then on a very quick
turnaround to digitize it and have a major
symposium and researchers. There’s so much interest in this because he was the only slave
known in America to be able to write his autobiography
in Arabic. One of the advantages were the
slave owners couldn’t read it, didn’t know what it was about and they weren’t
able to block it. Now I’m bringing you to today,
the Persian Language Project that we launched in 2019. And so we’re going to
learn all about that today. And I just want to say that
Ahmed has been at the forefront, the cutting edge
from early adoption. And I appreciate
Mary Jane Deeb here through her leadership has
provided us with the opportunity to innovate and try new ways
of digitizing our materials. And it’s been an
exciting process. So thank you to Mary Jane too. So now it’s my great pleasure
to introduce the panel. How do Persian manuscripts
contribute to the study of language, literature,
art, history and culture? And it’s going to be
moderated by Hirad Dinavari, a reverent specialist for
the Iranic World Collections, Near East Section
and the African and Middle Eastern Division. So our first person on the
panel is Dr. Mary Jane Deeb. She’s the chief — she was
the chief of the African and Middle East Division
in the Library of Congress. She received her PhD in
international relations of the Middle East and
Africa from the School of Advanced International
Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. And her BA and MA in
sociology and anthropology from the American
University in Cairo. She was the president of the
American Tunisian Association from 2016-2018, and an elected
member of the board of directors of the African Studies
Association from 2015-2018. She retired after more than 20
years at the Library of Congress as chief of the African and Middle Eastern
Division in February 2019. While working at the library,
she led a mission to Baghdad to assist with the
reconstruction of the National Library of
Iraq during the Iraq War. Accompanied by the
librarian of Congress on a Congressionally-approved
visit to Iran, curated and co-curated a number
of exhibits and organized over 500 programs, concerts, book events among her
many accomplishments. Our second member of
the panel is Amy Landau. With a doctoral degree in
Islamic art and archeology from Oxford University,
Dr. Amy Landau has led and supported exhibitions,
installations, cataloging projects, public
programs and digital ventures at museums for over a decade. From 2009-2018 she served
as curator of Islamic and South Asian art, and then
director of curatorial affairs at the Walters Art
Museum in Baltimore. Her exhibitions include
Threshold to the Sacred: The Ark Door of Egypt’s
Ben-Ezra Synagogue. Images of Paradise: The Garden in the Christian
and Islamic Worlds. And The Art of Writing
Instrument from Paris to Persia. Currently she is the
research associate at the Freer Sackler Gallery. And she has spearheaded a museum of the historically
black college and university initiative at Morgan State University
called Art, Religion and Cities, with an aim of exploring
presentations of religion in museums and increasing
diversity in curatorial ranks. Relating to the subject
of today’s panel, Amy has been closely
involved in two major efforts to digitize the Islamic
and Armenian manuscripts at the Walters Art Museum,
both of which were funded by preservation and
access grants from the National
Endowment for the Humanities. And our third panelist
is Fatemeh Keshavarz. Fatemeh Keshavarz holds the
Roshan chair in Persian studies and directs the School
of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University
of Maryland College Park. She is a published
poet and author of six monographs including
Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalel Al-Denrumi;
and Recite in the Name of the Red Rose: Poetic Sacred
Making in 20th Century Iran — winners of Choice
Magazine Award. Her book Jasmines and Stars:
Reading more than Lolita in Tehran was described
by the ALA Book List as an excellent counterpoint to Nafisi’s Reading
Lolita in Tehran. In 2007, Keshavarz
addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations
about the significance of cultural education
for world peace. Her show Speaking of
Faith featured her in an hour-long episode,
The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi, and received the
2008 Peabody Award. In 2013, Keshavarz was
named poet of the month by NPR’s Grace Cavalieri,
host of Poetry and the Poet. In 2015, the Edinburgh
University Press published her latest monograph, Lyrics
of Life: Sa’di on Love, Cosmopolitanism and
the Care of Self. So thank you very much and
let’s welcome our first panel to the podium to start. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Hirad Dinavari:: Thank
you very much, Joan, for reading those very
distinguished bios. I’m very grateful. I know it’s a mouthful
to go through. And you saw the list
of fantastic projects that Ahmed has taken
on in previous years. Digitization has essentially
come in various forms. Since we are taking
a minute to take care of the technical issues,
let me just take a second and say what a pleasure it is to have you here all
together on this panel. It’s been years that we’ve
been working together in various ways. Persian, Islamic,
Armenian related work. And you, Dr. Keshavarz, we started that wonderful
lecture series during our exhibition that went on and it
really reached a certain height with many lectures,
sometimes 16 a year. I remember our head was spinning at that point when
we had so many.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
I remember that.>>Hirad Dinavari: Absolutely. But it’s truly a
pleasure to have you here. And I’m going to sit down
so I don’t appear rude. And also Amy, I cannot
thank you enough for all the wonderful
presentations you’ve given here on Armenian art, on
Persian art, on Islamic art. You were one of our
guest speakers for the Persian Book
Lecture Series that inaugurated the program. And of course, Mary Jane,
I don’t have to mention all of these projects with your
tutelage and your support. You’ve been behind them. Most of the ones that Joan
went through were pioneered and spearheaded by you. So it’s truly a joy
to have everyone here. I think we can go ahead
and start this panel because it doesn’t
involve any technology. It’s just questions. So while Michelle is doing
her magic and taking care of the technical
side, I will start with a few questions
for the panel. And essentially, pose it to
different people but then open up to everyone to give
their point of view. Mary Jane, this one’s for you. Why was it important
for the Library to digitize the collection
of Persian manuscripts? Yeah.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Thank you.>>Hirad Dinavari:
A little louder. You have to put it on on. And we all have microphones,
by the way.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Yeah. Okay. I think it was
critical to do that, to digitize these
manuscripts for three reasons. The first reason was the
issue of preservation. And these manuscripts,
as you probably see when they’re shown,
are beautiful. And they’re also delicate. They’re old and very delicate. And so the first reason to digitize them was an
issue of preservation. You had to preserve them. You had to make sure that they
wouldn’t be damaged by use, by simply, you know, turning
the pages and using them. So one of the first and most
important uses was preservation. The second use also — the
second reason why we did that is to ensure that people
knew what we had. There’s always the assumption — I mean, readers come
and they say, “Does the Library
have everything that has ever been written
or ever been published?” We get that question
over and over again. And no, we don’t. We do not have everything
that’s ever been written, ever been published and so on. And then when it
comes to manuscripts, the idea is that somehow the
Library collected all the great manuscripts in the world
and we’re keeping them, we’re storing them,
we took them away from the countries of origin. And of course we did not. In fact, we have a policy
not to take materials which are the patrimony
of countries. And the only reason we have this
collection of manuscripts is that we acquired
them a long time ago when there were no
patrimony rights. So by digitizing them and
putting them up online, we let people know
what we actually have. So there are no illusions,
there are no ideas of — they also get cataloged and
they then become findable. And so the third point
— one is preservation, one is accessibility
and knowledge about those manuscripts. And the third is searchability. In other words, by
having them out there, then anyone can have access
to them, can use them, can search them without touching
the actual item, without, you know, damaging it. So it was very important that those materials be made
available for everyone to see, everyone to have access to it. And that the original item
be preserved and kept.>>Hirad Dinavari: Thank you. And similarly, Amy, I
know that you didn’t work with our digital project,
but in a way you did. Walters digitized all of
their Persian, Islamic and Armenian manuscripts,
and you worked with our World Digital
Library and put all of it up on World Digital Library. So you can add to the question,
why was it important for Walters and other institutions
that you’ve been with to digitize these items?>>Amy Landau So to pick up
what Mary Jane was saying, one in terms of Persian
manuscripts and their entry into let’s say the marketplace
of the late 19th, 20th century where we have some of the
finest Persian manuscripts ever produced, that within
that sphere of trade of manuscripts have
been disassembled. So digitization also gives
us this wonderful opportunity to bring together some
of the great manuscripts. So a parent manuscript
being broken up and then brought together once
again through digital means which I think is
terribly important. And I do have to also
support the fact that many of our collections
in the United States, particularly our
Gilded Age Collections, are rich because of this context
of colonialism and imperialism and it being our duty to safeguard these
manuscripts for humanity.>>Hirad Dinavari: Wonderful. Dr. Keshavarz, we came
to you several occasion when we needed expert
opinion and help on some of our manuscripts that have
so-called mystery items. And we also went to the Freer
and Sackler’s Matt [inaudible] and Simon Riddick who
unfortunately couldn’t be with us today, but they’re
here in spirit, absolutely. It was fascinating
to work with you. I remember we had
people from conservation, people from cataloging and
also some of your students and faculty from
University of Maryland. And just seeing how you
looked at the manuscripts, how you reviewed it
was very fascinating. So from your vantage
point as an educator, why is digitizing these
manuscripts of importance?>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Yes, absolutely. I think just in a way as
Amy and Mary Jane said, I think it’s very important
for the students of a culture to actually physically
see the items. And when you look
at the history, you see people traveled
long distances. And there are stories for
example that Omar Hiram tried to spend two, three
days with a manuscript so that he could memorize
as much as he could, so that when he got back to [inaudible] he could ask
his students to write it down. Now, whether that’s true or not, it shows that actually
seeing the item up close and extracting their
cultural understanding of it is physically
very important. We also have stories that in the
past people sometimes rented a bookstore overnight, or slept
in the library, got permission so that just they could
spend the night looking at a manuscript that they did
not have the means to purchase or it wasn’t available
in the same way that we are thinking about it. And I think that this is so
connected with the spirit of the Library of Congress
and with Mary Jane herself. I mean, think about
the trip to Iran. I think that what
trip does is much more than establishing links and
so forth which is important. It shows that you
care about the culture that created these treasures,
and you want to stay in touch. And I would say that’s one
of the most important aspects of seeing the manuscripts, is
that when you teach the culture, they can actually see
the texture of it. They can feel what —
I mean, I just saw one of their beautiful calligraphies
that was there in Arabic, possibly done by a
Persian calligrapher because it was [inaudible]. But I wouldn’t know
until I see the name. It said [foreign phrase]. So the one who wrote this
[inaudible] in the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate,
with beautiful handwriting. [Foreign phrase]. Will enter into goodness
without limit. So it just says something about
how writing what is important is in the texture of the culture. And it’s important for
the students to see that the language is
not just for commerce. It’s not just for, you
know, exchanging facts. It’s about feeling what
the culture has to offer.>>Amy Landau And how important
that is in this context today. When to know someone is
to understand and hear and know the words
that they’re saying, and that’s what manuscripts do. They give us this access
into what people said, what they thought was
important for them, their hopes, their fears. And in terms of education, that’s so important
in the States today.>>Hirad Dinavari: Absolutely. Actually, relating to what
you are speaking about, I have a question for
you, Dr. Keshavarz. How will teachers of Persian
language, Islamic civilization, art history, benefit from
this sort of collection? It’s essentially along the lines
of what you’re speaking about.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Yes,
I think it’s very connected. I think I would add to that
that for example the varieties of calligraphy, of
the handwriting. For the students to see
what the calligrapher chose to do for what topic. So it’s a kind of special
relationship between that and the production of
it that’s important. To know that people in the past
didn’t have access to the kind of accessibility
that they have now. I think that’s also
very important. But you know, when the
manuscripts are just full of surprises, you are looking at
a text that you know very well and then you suddenly see
something on the margins. Or you’re looking at
a miniature painting and suddenly just a
little rabbit is smiling in that corner. So it changes the whole picture
that you have of the culture. And I want to thank Amy for
saying how relevant this is to today when we are
constantly hoping and praying that cultures talk to each other
as opposed to anything else which could be destructive.>>Amy Landau And manuscripts
are very much like archaeology. They’re like a site and
they preserve so long, have had so many visitations. And with the digital
approach, you can see things that you wouldn’t see with the
naked eye, like remargination or annotations that
are very small or rebinding, evidence of that. So in terms of a scientific
investigation of a manuscript as an object, the digital
is a fantastic approach.>>Hirad Dinavari: I
couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, this is something
I learned the hard way. We have small little
miniature manuscripts that you could barely read. You needed a magnifying glass. And the catalogers
really struggled with seeing the small print. So when we digitized it and
you could see it at 700 DPI, it really, really
changes everything. You can really see it. So absolutely.>>Amy Landau Yeah.>>Hirad Dinavari: So Mary
Jane, related to this –>>Mic.>>Mic.>>Hirad Dinavari: I’m sorry. I apologize. So Mary Jane, related to this, how will the online collection
help readers who either come to the library or patrons who
see this virtually, essentially?>>Mary Jane Deeb: I
think — is this on?>>Hirad Dinavari: We
can hear you, yeah.>>Mary Jane Deeb: One of
the most important points — There. Yes. One of the most important things that you both mentioned is the
accessibility to the manuscript. And by digitizing it, you are
able to see the details of it. But also it’s a method of time. By having it digitally
available, you have more time to read the manuscript. Let’s say you’re sitting
in India and you want to read the manuscript. You don’t need to be here. You don’t need to spend,
you know, from 8:30 to 5:00 and then you have
to leave the room. You can take your time
and look at each page in every detail and study it. And I think this is what
digitizing manuscripts has made possible: an in-depth study. Where people from different
parts of the world can look at the same manuscript at the
same time, can exchange points of views, can exchange
information and can take their time
looking at the little fabric, can look at the little flower,
can look at the marginalia, can look at all the different
parts of the manuscript and try to understand it. Whatever we do and however good
we are at serving materials in a reading room,
it is never — there’s never enough
time to do it. And one person looking at the
manuscript does not allow others to look at the same
manuscript at the same time. Digitizing it makes a whole
community of scholars able to use the same item and
take time to discuss it.>>Hirad Dinavari: Amy, I
have a question for you.>>Mic.>>Hirad Dinavari: Oh, sorry. Amy, I have a question for you. It’s both related to teaching
and also as a curator. Looking at these manuscripts,
how does it really help with the understanding of
Persian societies specifically? Because you’re dealing with
Persianate language being used in vast regions from
essentially India and the Bay of Bengal all the
way to the Balkans. It’s a language, yet you have
books that are the same text, like the [foreign name],
what have you, but produced in variants and very
interesting different styles from region to region. From an art historian and
curator’s point of view, how would having a collection
like this online assist with other museum
collections around and the comparative
study essentially?>>Amy Landau So let me
start from a broad view. And that’s in terms of
documenting different forms of knowledge and
different aesthetics through time and place. And we all know that the
study of the Persianate world or the study of the
Islamic world is difficult because we are dealing with
such huge amounts of time and geographies and differences. And the importance of
looking at things regionally. And in the field of Islamic
studies let’s say we’re realizing how important it is
to take those regional dives. So to not assume similarities and essentialize
human experiences. So one — the manuscript
editions, one, show similarity throughout
these regions, but also a great
deal of differences. And the fact that manuscripts
hold a civilization’s knowledge. So to understand let’s say in
your collection works on ethics and how important that is. And here I’m going
a little bit away from the art historical a bit. But to know a community’s
ethics. And again, I would like to point out the importance
of that today. And in terms of teaching,
let’s say, for the digitization of manuscripts, when we
digitized our manuscripts at the Walters, we were one
of the first major collections to digitize the Islamic
manuscripts. And that was due
to the generosity of the National Endowment
of Humanities. And I also want to
point out the thing with digitization projects is
that they ride on the tails of generosity and they
beget more generosity and support of the humanities. So when we started doing this, it’s amazing how many people
were using our manuscripts for teaching in the classroom. And then we get that
generosity back, because we made those
images available. Then we received more increased
knowledge on our collections, on the Walters collections
rather. So that’s also really important. And in terms of like the
investigation of art history, it’s those masterful
techniques which you can see with a digital lens such as
the illumination or the pigment or the refurbishment
of a manuscript. Does that answer your question?>>Hirad Dinavari: It absolutely
answers it beautifully.>>Mic.>>Mic.>>Mic.>>Mic.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Sorry, I keep doing that.>>Just hold it here.>>Hirad Dinavari:
I’ll just hold it up. Yeah, so essentially
connecting Amy’s response from a perspective of an
educator, I’m curious now — at the University of Maryland I
know you have graduate students. I know that Miss
Pashai — hi there — Miss Pashai and others have
come and used our materials, have used your materials. It would be great to
see how University of Maryland could
potentially use this collection for its advanced
Persian students as well as its beginners. Any thoughts on that?>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Yes, absolutely. Let me just pick
up where Amy left. One thing I really love
about Amy’s work is that she always brings
the person out, you know, whether it’s artwork
or manuscript. It’s more than an item. It’s something that’s created by
people and just again underline of similarities and
differences and the connection between the Persionate world. To me it’s — well,
let me put it this way. There is — in the Persian
tradition there is a poetic tradition that spreads
all over this area that we share each
other’s poets. We know what they wrote. A lot of people know
them by heart. And sometimes we focus so
much on the orality of that that we forget that
there is a very important written tradition. The manuscript tradition that really upholds
that oral tradition. To me, this is something
very similar — if I wanted to look for a
parallel, it’s the internet. It’s the internet of the earlier
times where somebody would go from a major city to
another city and could talk to each other, connect
to each other because of these traditions. Now of course this
is at the heart of teaching Persian language. And you know that when our
summer institute begins, any talk that’s here, we
just bring the students and they love it. They actually connect
with these items. We sometimes might
think that young people, well do they have
really the patience? They do. And they find
a kind of deeper level when they look at
the manuscripts. So I think one thing we need
to do is to keep those kind of speaker series and
dissemination of knowledge that brings our students in
touch with scholars and experts. So in other words, to connect
the classroom with the library. I mean, we are extremely
lucky to be here, to be here where the
Library of Congress is. So connecting that and then
using the digitization, bringing individual items
into the language classroom, into the history classroom. And I think we are doing that. I think people are very happy that there’s resources
becoming available to them.>>Hirad Dinavari:
This ties in perfectly with the next question. Go ahead, Amy.>>Amy Landau Just to
riff off that point.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yeah.>>Amy Landau Sorry. Can you hear me?>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
You have to turn it on I think every
once in a while.>>Amy Landau There’s
no on/off switch.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yes.>>Amy Landau That’s
the secret of life. [ Laughter ] On/off always works. So what’s really going
to be exciting now is that we have these
great institutions who have made digital resources. And so the next step is
what are we all going to do with the digital resources? So yes, they are functioning
really well when it comes to researchers and
to universities. But what are we going to do for
those other segments like K-12? And to do that, that’s going
to take a lot of expertise such as the expertise
in this room. How are we going to
translate this material and make it relevant for
our curricula and our K-12? And that’s what I’m
really excited about, for us to use these digital
resources in new ways.>>Mary Jane Deeb:
Yes, absolutely. And following up on this, it is the visuality
that is so important. And when kids are in school,
K-12 but also the older ones, they actually discover
the meanings by looking at those images. Even if they can’t
read the manuscript, they discover the civilization. They discover the
beauty of the costumes. They discover the
beauty of the gestures. They see the beauty
of the colors and the intricacy
of the designs. And it makes the culture,
the civilization alive. And it is. And for young people, it moves
from the realm of history and the past and into
something very real. And it is this that
is so much — and the Persian manuscripts
are so visually, so beautiful and so intricate
that it inspires. And I’m sure it inspires young
people to think differently, to look at the world
in a different way. It also gives you a
chance to tell them things that if this item’s not in front of them they wouldn’t be
able to connect with it. Like for example, important
texts were used as a podium. You would comment on
them because you knew that other people would be
interested in that text. They will see your comment.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Yes.>>Mary Jane Deeb:
So the connections, things that you can
actually show them. Why are the margins important? Why are the commentaries
important? What do they say about the
people who created them? And I think — I
actually love the idea of creating K-12 ideas
for the curriculum. I think we should really
go in that direction. Maybe somebody is
interested in that. [ Laughter ]>>Hirad Dinavari:
I have good news. On the second panel of our conversation we have
Lee Ann Potter right there. She and Michael Chyet
are essentially going to be talking about K-12.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Wonderful.>>Hirad Dinavari: How to
make this material accessible to younger audiences
and to younger students. So I really think
you would enjoy that. And you definitely — I’ll have
to introduce you to each other. Absolutely. So the part that
comes in now is tied into what we were
talking about already. It’s sort of circular,
our conversation here. But where do you see — and we’ve already done this
with your institutions. But from here on where do you
see potential of collaboration with us at the Library as well as African Middle
Eastern Division? We have had lecture series
with University of Maryland. We have used and essentially
asked for your expertise on items that we
could not identify and needed expert opinion on. With Freer and Sackler
as well as with you, Amy, and at Walters there
has been this give and take on manuscripts. One thing I can potentially
think of — and this was something that
in an interesting way started years ago. We started digitizing our
calligraphy sheet project. And some of them were the same
manuscript that was broken up, and a few pages were
in the possession of us here at the Library. A few pages were
given to the Mets, and a few to the
Freer and Sackler. And we digitized ours and
maybe a collaborative thing down the road would be to
work with various institutions that have pages of
various manuscripts to virtually reconnect
potentially these collections that have been broken apart
essentially for selling. So I’m very eager to hear
what areas you think we could collaborate both as educator and
as a curator with the Library.>>Hirad Dinavari: You’re good.>>Amy Landau I’m good. Okay. [Laughs] I mean, in
terms of collaborative projects and contribution to
scholarship and public good, one of the most powerful
things to do is to bring people of different fields together. So to bring someone who’s a
beautiful translator of poetry and who scaffolds the
American curricula to bring in the Persian poetic tradition,
the aesthetic tradition. And how do you use
this information, whether it be visual or textual
from different points of view? And then for me,
it’s really been how to bring it into the education. I do like your idea of bringing
together parent manuscripts. There are also institutions
that can’t afford to digitize. And how do we use the structures
we’ve already set up in some of these great institutions
to digitize other collections so we can bring more
manuscripts together? And that work is really
important work to be done under the rubric of
cultural patrimony. It’s a different time right now and these conversations
are going on and we need to be
a part of them. And thinking about how can
technology inflect those conversations, if
that makes sense.>>Hirad Dinavari: Absolutely. And I know that at
University of Maryland you at some point were
looking at the digital –>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Humanities.>>Hirad Dinavari: Thank you.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Yes.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yes.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Yeah,
I wanted to talk about that. We have within the School
of Languages, Literatures and Cultures first
started with Persian — creating an actual position
in Persian digital humanities. In fact, our first professor
of Persian digital humanities, Dr. Matthew Miller, is sitting
here and is rapidly turning into a worldwide
authority on the subject. So it has multiple
hopes and pathways that we are going through. But definitely working on
manuscripts and working with the library would be
at the top of our agenda. I was thinking, I was
actually talking to my husband as we were walking here. And I was thinking, imagine
we would have the tool, the digital tool
and the possibility to crowdsource experts. Say a professor of Persian in
Italy or in Timbuktu is working on a manuscript and
has the expertise to give us some metadata that
would really enrich material. Of course, you have
to curate that. You have to have all the
tools to deal with it, but I think we should, with
creating such digital hubs, to go in the direction of making
it possible for their learning to also come together
around the manuscripts. That is something that’s really
kind of a dream for me to see that everything is searchable,
that you can get views from these experts and you
could make it available so that when you go there you can
actually see what other experts said about this particular
manuscript. So our digital programs are
very interested in all of this. And I’m sure that Matt
would be more than happy — I’m volunteering you, Matt. [ Laughter ]>>Hirad Dinavari:
And Mary Jane?>>Mary Jane Deeb: And you know,
we can also whet our appetite. There can also be
partnerships online. In other words, one could
partner with libraries all over the world, with
museums all over the world.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yes.>>Mary Jane Deeb: And it
doesn’t need to be next door.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Absolutely.>>Mary Jane Deeb:
Those could — again, based on what
you were both saying, there are manuscript collections
that exist all over the world. And linking together, creating
online and virtual conferences, having speakers — one seated
in Timbuktu, one in India, one in China, one in
Italy, one in France, talking to each other
and filming it. I mean, having virtual
conferences where students in classrooms all over the
world would be attending these programs.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: And in
a way also making it clear that technology is
not just for science.>>Mary Jane Deeb: No. Exactly.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
And that’s great, but the humanities could
be the same, absolutely. And you could have
those exchanges that could be enriching
for classrooms and exchanges and chat rooms. Discussing the same item or
similar items that exist, written by different copiers. And I just wanted to
talk about the kids. [ Laughter ] Because there’s a partnership for our collection
of Omar Ibn Said. It has been fantastic. We just heard today that
a video that was made by high school kids
had 23,000 views.>>Amy Landau Wow.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: And it
was made by high school kids. It is. Exactly. [ Laughter ] So there could be also
those partnerships.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Yeah,
so important as well.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Exactly.>>Hirad Dinavari: Absolutely. So here is where I would
like to leave it open-ended to each of you. You’re all experts. We’ve all worked
together closely. We’re friends. And I just want you to say a few
things that you think is crucial and important to you without
having me pose a question. What’s something that you think
about this sort of project, digitization, manuscripts,
education? What is important and
dear to you that you would like to highlight and make sure
it’s heard and spoken about?>>Mary Jane Deeb:
From my perspective, and you’re the experts, it
is learning about cultures and civilization which
you had pointed out there. But it’s getting a sense,
a feel, an understanding of history, an understanding
of the evolution, the change of art,
of moving away from present-day news report,
to having a much more global, much richer, more
expanded view of the world. And understanding that the
present is just a moment in time. And that really history is the
accumulation of the creations that are made by people. Their physical creations
like monuments and the physical
creation of a manuscript. That speaks so much to the
people, to the history, to the ethics, to the values,
to the sense, to the aesthetics of a culture that is taken
and created and brought forth. And I think this is
what a manuscript holds. It holds the work of penmanship,
the work of the paper that was created, the
work of the craftsman that created the colors, the
paint, you know, the turquoise that was used, the
gold that was used. The shapes, the designs. It’s that which is brought
forth through those manuscripts and enlarged, expanded. And it brings the
past to the present. Because a digital project
is a very modern, very, you know, 21st-century. And it brings something from the
past, zooms it into the present.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yeah. Into the present, absolutely.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Very quickly.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yeah. Amy or Fatemeh, whoever
wants to go first.>>Amy Landau Sure. I could go quickly. One, what’s really
important to me is that we’ve made these digital
resources and the importance of what are we going
to do with them. I was lucky enough to be at the
Walters at this wonderful time where we had a great deal
of funding to digitize. And we’ve created some
wonderful downloads. Everything’s free, it’s
high image for publication. But now it’s what are we
going to do for education? That’s the next step. And that’s going to
take a lot of people. And what also really intrigues
me about digital resources is that they’re riding on a
platform which is shared by a platform, i.e. digital
that’s used for misinformation about people and about
religions and about traditions. So how do we harness
these digital sources for conversations let’s
say about religion? Which is not — it’s a passion
of mine to discuss religion in a public sphere because with
our school systems we talk less and less about religion
and even in museums. So how do we use religious
manuscripts let’s say to communicate ideas truth — I’m wary of saying
truthful ideas. But ideas, ethics,
religious ethics in an open sphere platform. Yeah.>>Hirad Dinavari: Fatemeh?>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Sure. Well, I think that is a
world thing you can do. And as you say, the gate has
been opened, is available. So a number of things that
just comes to my mind. One is that we live at a time when objects are just
created at the drop of a hat. They just surround us. We stop seeing important
objects. Because they’re created,
they’re made available to us, they’re disposable. There are tons of others like
them, so making people see — and young people see the
significance of these objects that took time to be created. Sometimes months of
regular daily work. It kind of connects them with
what an object could mean as opposed to the kind
of cluttering our lives with objects that
don’t mean anything. I would like us and I hope
that we would be able to bring out the creativity in these
things, and the humor.>>Amy Landau Yeah.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Somehow
thinking about the past, we get very serious, you know? All these towering figures. But they smiled too, you know? And the manuscripts
are small too. That’s why that little
rabbit is important and digitization makes it
possible to see the presence of that and why it was
put there and so forth. So the humor, the liveliness,
the exuberance even, and the dedication
to the creation of these important
objects that meant a lot and in turn reshaped
the lives around them. So they were created and
they helped in recreation of the world around them. I think it’s a tall order. I’m aware that, you know,
there’s only so much we can do. But if we have these ideals, once the tools are
available I think we can go in that direction. And it’s exciting.>>Amy Landau Yeah. And also being sensitive to
the interesting relationship between the digital
and the physical. And someone brought it up
earlier, the acceleration that goes on with learning when you have the actual
object in front of you. I’ve taught quite
often with manuscripts on the university level and
also with high schoolers. And you just see people
learning at such a faster rate when they actually
have the object. So how do you formulate this
relationship between the digital and the physical
will be interesting. And also the importance
of book culture. And that’s something we talk
less and less about currently. And what does that
even mean in terms of understanding a
manuscript not only as a holder of knowledge for a society
but like as a physical object? Which we don’t get
much of anymore.>>Hirad Dinavari: Very true. Mary Jane, any thoughts?>>Mary Jane Deeb:
No, I think –>>Hirad Dinavari:
You’ve expressed them all?>>Mary Jane Deeb: Yes.>>Hirad Dinavari: Okay, great. Well, we also have a little
bit of a surprise today which is essentially — I’ll
give a little background.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Don’t give it away.>>Hirad Dinavari: As
the Persian Studies and the Iranian Studies
specialist here who’s been here now since 2004, I have seen
and been part of a series of wonderful projects, all
supported and spearheaded by my wonderful former
chief Mary Jane. On Afghanistan, on Iran we
have had a series of programs. The Voices from Afghanistan
exhibition, the Persian Book — 1,000 Years of the
Persian Book exhibition. The lecture series. And we’ve collaborated
with Roshan and University of Maryland on a number
of these endeavors. So — and it’s raining. So essentially we
want to thank you and highlight your
contribution to Persian studies. I’m really grateful. And this is something
that Roshan and University of Maryland was very
happy to do. They wanted to give you
something of a surprise and thank you for everything
you’ve done these years related to Persian studies.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Can
I invite two colleagues to come here with a
mysterious briefcase?>>Hirad Dinavari: Please. [ Laughter ]>>Here’s the briefcase.>>Hirad Dinavari: There we go.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Please come up.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Let’s stand up here. So this is Dr. Karan Mustafah
from University of Maryland and Dr. Keshavarz’s husband
as well as Dr. Matthew Miller. And they are essentially going
to give Mary Jane something as a token of their
appreciation.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: On
behalf of the Roshan Institute, we want you to know that
you are a great chief.>>Mary Jane Deeb:
Oh how lovely. [ Applause ]>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Thank
you, Dr. Mary Jane Deeb. You are a great chief. Roshan Institute for
Persian Studies thanks you for your invaluable
contributions to fostering knowledge
about Iran.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yeah. [ Applause ] Thank you so much. Okay, so now let’s go back —
you’re very welcome, Mary Jane. Let’s go back to
question and answers. I’m going to ask the audience to
feel free to ask any questions from our distinguished
panelists. They’re all experts in the
field and as you can see, they are filled with
really wonderful information about the collection as well
as Persian manuscripts period. Anyone have any questions? No questions? Okay, Joan has one.>>Joan Weeks: I looked at
the past and the present, but now I’d love to
look at the future. And you talked about
collaboration. So I’m kind of the back-end
type of person sometimes with the techie part of it. And one of the things that we’ve
been doing throughout these digital projects is innovating. And you’re going to get
more of that this afternoon as you hear how these
things are put together. But several innovations
came about — we digitized the microfilm,
then we did it in-house as part of the pilot for my project. And also one of the
biggest challenges with mine was the metadata. And because Abdul Hamid gave
two sets of those books, one to the Library of
Congress and one to the member of Congress, the New York
cataloger had cataloged his. And our wonderful cataloging
team figured out a way to — I should say he has cataloged
the entire part he has. We imported that metadata. And I would like to think that
that came in and we had 40 more that we had to figure out
ways to get cataloged. That provides the
back end that you see, all that wonderful description
for these digital objects. When we look at future
directions for manuscripts, not only the collaboration
on the front end where people see all this, but
I see a huge role for back end. The catalogers are doing
what’s called bib frame. We have the linked
data on Wikipedia where people are doing
data mining across sets. You talked about
connecting these pieces, but do you see a future role
at your institutions for ways of innovating, new ways of putting these digital
collections online so that we see them?>>Mary Jane Deeb: May I ask — I think there’s somebody in the
audience who can address this. Matt, please. With you know — do you
want to get the microphone?>>Just in general?>>Mary Jane Deeb: Yes. In response to the back end.>>Of the back end. Well, yeah, I mean I think that
one of the most important things to consider with digitization
projects is what are the images going to be — what
license are they going to be published under? Because most of the things that for example we would
be interested in doing with the images — I mean, there’s the public facing
display of the images for students or for researchers,
scholars to look at and use in their traditional
humanities scholarship. But then on the other side
there is all these new and interesting methods
of analysis, some of which Amy mentioned where you’re actually
doing digital archaeology on the images. But then there’s also new things
that are developing for example for obstacle character
recognition. So we can actually make these
manuscripts not just something that can be viewed by humans, but they can actually be
searched and rendered, transcribed into digital text that can actually then
be not only searched like you would search in Google. But then also actually
used in different forms of computational
textual analysis to do what they are increasingly
calling cultural analytics. And so this issue of what
license they’re published with, levels of access, all these
things are very important. And I know because it’s
the Library of Congress, you guys I’m sure have published
it under a very open license. And maybe you guys can — I was actually going
to ask about that. What license in particular
was it being published under?>>Hirad Dinavari: Okay. As far as licensing, it’s
not my area of expertise. So I’m not going to claim to
know or be able to answer it. But anyone in the
audience that could — Dave, would you possibly
have an answer for that? No. [ Inaudible ] Go ahead and — yeah.>>Sorry. For each digital
collection we have an About the Collection. There’s collection
items but also on the upper left-hand
corner there’s a link to the right statement that
general counsel’s office set up.>>Hirad Dinavari: Yeah, for
this specific project we had to go through the Office
of General Counsel. The manuscripts are public
domain so there isn’t an issue. One or two of them that
were published after 1910, we had to get permission. And one of them was from 2001. I had to write the
Ayatollah who wrote it and actually get his
permission to put it up. The other items are from we
think Afghanistan 1910-1920. We have no idea who the
author is or the scribes were. So we’ve put it up
with the understanding that if someone has an issue
or comes up and says something, then at that point we’ll
have to address it. But because we could not — we
tried to do our due diligence. And as of right now it’s up. And I think for much of the —
until the 1920’s is fairly safe. It’s after 1920’s when
the copyright law kicks in that it becomes a
little bit more problematic. So for the lithographs which is
the next part of the project, a number of them are past 1920. And for those items I may
have to work on, you know, some sort of rights
or what have you. The items that are from the
1840’s till the 19-teens are fine. I hope that answers
it a little bit. Yeah.>>Amy Landau What’s also
interesting here is that I think with this very question and
the pause in discussion points to something that’s
quite important. And that’s humanities
scholars who are working on these digitization
projects need to be working with those in other fields. Because this is not
our area of expertise. And I’m just thinking about the
museum context and that many of us have gotten involved
in these digital projects. And it’s really not
our business. And how we need to also work
with those in other fields and also for-profits to
get this at another level. Because we can’t be expected to have expertise
in all these areas. In my experience, I have
been fortunate enough to work with someone by the name
of Will Noel who’s now at the University
of Pennsylvania. And he was the one
who initially hired me for the Islamic digitization
project. And he knew a fantastic
amount of this information. So it’s going to also bring
in people like Will Noel into these larger projects.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: May
I also comment on that? That’s why — actually
that’s a great point. And that’s why it’s important
to train people who will be in digital humanities. So it’s a kind of a
hybrid kind of scholar. We actually have PhD student
applying for that, to come here and he will be working — he
has a PhD in the digital area. And he’s coming here to
work with me and Matt. I won’t be able to
speak that language. Sometimes when Matt’s talking
about something, I’m like, “Well, this sounds like not
a language I understand.” But I think a combination of
working together is hopefully, you know — and we were like,
“Why do you want to come here?” And he said, “Because you
guys have digital humanities and this is what I
have been looking for, to put this technology in the
service of the humanities.” And I think we have more
and more hybrid scholars in various areas who
could handle things that have two different
dimensions.>>Hirad Dinavari: Any thoughts? No? Okay.>>Amy Landau But
also the complexity of those digital
humanities projects. So you need translators. You need art historians. You need those –>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
A team basically.>>Amy Landau Yeah, exactly.>>Hirad Dinavari: It’s a collaborative
effort, absolutely.>>Amy Landau Yeah.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Any other questions from everyone who’s
sitting on this side.>>Mary Jane Deeb:
We have one here. One there.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Yes, go ahead. Thank you, Wanda.>>I have a really
terrible question. You are all scholars. Do you ever feel that
something can be too accessible?>>Amy Landau Say that again?>>Hirad Dinavari:
Too accessible.>>Do you ever feel that things
are becoming too accessible? That people are skimming
because they can not only access manuscripts, but they
can search them so easily that they just skim off things and they don’t have a real
understanding of context. They also don’t know
the pleasure perhaps. Even when I wrote my
dissertation, I remember to get to a manuscript in England to see a medieval
Hebrew manuscript, I saved my money,
I saved my time. I leave. I remember the
way my heart was beating when I knew I was going
to see this manuscript. Nowadays I could just
do it like that online. And I can’t help — I
see all the positives. But am I the only one who
feels a sense of loss?>>Amy Landau That’s
a great question.>>Mary Jane Deeb: But I would
like to add that the fact that we have digitized is
simply making it more accessible to more people. However, the joy of seeing
the item itself remains. They’re still at the library. So we still want
to bring them here to the library to see the item. And hopefully by having
digitized the manuscript, people will be enticed to
come and see the real thing. And the real thing
remains the manuscript. You’re absolutely right. I mean, it is the beauty of
the item itself that remains in the item and cannot
be any way replicated by a digital image. So the digital image in a way
is a hook for the real scholars. It is a way of enticing
them to come to the library. It’s a way of letting
them know that it’s there. But if you really want
to see the item itself, to touch the paper, to look at
the colors, to see the item, then you really have
to come to the library. And this is why it’s important
that we have them here and that we preserve them
and that we keep them. And we keep them for the
scholars, for the ones who really, really, you
know, love those manuscripts and want to work on them. The others are a way of reaching
out to people who are far away, who will never be able to save
enough money to travel and come, who will never be able to
— who are unable to come. Who can dream. And so we let them dream. We let them dream and let them
know that the item is here or at Walters, at the University of Maryland or wherever
they are. And they at least will be able
to see an image and to flip through it before the
real scholar eventually. It is the library that
has the item, I would say.>>Hirad Dinavari: Okay,
we are running out of time. This will be the last question because we have to
take our break.>>Yeah, somebody
else has a question. This is kind of a
follow-up question.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Okay. Why don’t you follow up?>>I have a follow-up.>>Okay, so I actually wanted
to follow up with a question on exactly what you were saying. And somewhat in response to your
question, and maybe Amy would be in the best position
to answer this. I’ve heard anecdotally
from a lot of collections that have digitized their
manuscripts that it’s actually in a very real way
driven traffic, driven foot traffic
to the original. Has there been any — do
you have numbers or studies? I’m just curious. Or even just in your experience at Walters, is that
a real thing? Do the anecdotal
stories hold up on that?>>Amy Landau Yeah. I think it definitely
does drive traffic. People know it’s out there. They want to study it. They want to experience
the actual object. But it would be really good,
because we talk about this a lot and the theoretical
that it would be great to have data on this. Do you want to –>>Fatemeh Keshavarz: Yes, I think actually we
were together speaking with a publisher. I won’t, you know,
reveal more details. But just basically exploring
if we could have a series. And he was suggesting that
they’ll do a book online, the digital version as
well as the paper version. And we said, “You
really want to do both?” And he said, “We will
have better sales of the actual paper
print version if we have the digital version.” So I don’t know, again
— and it’s open access. And still people go and buy it. But I want to acknowledge your
concern, because I share that. And I think it’s very important that we don’t develop a
digital mind and a digital eye that just searches for
something that’s easy and you skim through. And again, I haven’t really
read any systematic studies. But it seems to be something
that younger people get used to doing, just skimming,
looking for the “facts” that they are searching for. And I think that we are
going to overcome that. It’s just like when
the radio started, when television started,
when cinema started. Habits of dealing with the new
things are going to change. And this isn’t — this rush to
just use the digital materials in the way that it is
used now is going to calm down into a variety of
approaches to digital tools. But I feel your concern. I just wanted you to know.>>Amy Landau Yeah. And going back to that concern, I remember when we were
digitizing the Islamic manuscripts and there’s always
binaries in these conversations. Just as information
can be used for good, it can also be used for bad. But then it’s just
putting it out there and seeing what people
do with it. And we were so pleasantly
surprised to see people curating
their own collections, animating our images
so they come to life. And it’s just — it was a
really fantastic experience, just also to release
the information and see what happens,
what people do who don’t have expertise
knowledge, how they respond to these images and information. Yeah.>>Hirad Dinavari: Absolutely. So on my end I have
to kind of quickly say that we digitized these
mainly because when I went to California and all over,
a lot of Iranian Americans, Afghan Americans and
others wanted to see these but they couldn’t travel here. So this is a wonderful
way for them to be able to see it long-distance. However, it’s never going to
be the same as the original. The scans are fantastic, but the
originals are something else. Anyway, one more
question and end of story. [ Inaudible ]>>Just a quick comment
on that, I don’t know if this is projecting. But I have two instances
of people coming into our reading room and asking for the calligraphy sheets
that they saw online. And the fact that they had been
digitized and had little codes in the bottom enabled me to go
in the rare area and pull those and find them and serve them
within a matter of minutes. And if they had just
walked in off the street and they hadn’t been digitized, I wouldn’t have been
able to do that quickly. So two case studies of that.>>Hirad Dinavari: Absolutely. Yes?>>I have two comments. One is that somehow,
sometimes in the digital world and with the digital
humanities one has to remember that it’s just a
simulacrum of the original. And what gets lost and what
can’t get digitized is the vibrancy of the paper, the
thickness of the paper, the thickness of the
media on the paper. The fact that the
gold jumps out at you. These are all kinds of values that are totally lost
in the digital realm. So that’s — And one of the reasons I
became a conservator — I’m a conservator
in the Library — is that as a student of art
history, to me the job where — the only job where someone
was in constant contact with the original
in academia and not in academia was the conservator. So I’m just, you know, an
advocate for the original.>>Hirad Dinavari: Absolutely.>>I do like digital
because it’s great for PowerPoints and teaching. And the other point I wanted
to make is looking at art and western art and Asian
art and Islamic art, one thing that always
struck me as a child was that Islamic art
painting is usually in a very personal environment. It’s in a book. And it often is —
it’s belletristic. It’s not necessarily
religious art. In fact, it is very rarely
religious art, the paintings. So it is all about culture,
romance, everyday life, fireworks, the baker,
you know, people bathing. And that is what makes it
unique compared to European art which is of the same time
period, which is religious, historic history paintings. And so I think as
teachers, that is something that would appeal extremely
well to a K-12 audience, specifically a K-5
I would think.>>Hirad Dinavari: And
that was Yasmeen Khan who will be giving
a wonderful talk on conservation on
the second panel. We have to take a break. The questions can
continue during the break. Thank you very much
to everyone who came. I know that 9:00 AM
was a little too early. Especially I want to thank our
wonderful speakers and guests who have come from the
University of Maryland, you know, the Smithsonian
and Baltimore. And Mary Jane, thank you very
much for speaking on behalf of the Library and being here
and everything you’ve done for Iranian and Persian and
Afghan studies over the years. Thank you very much.>>Mary Jane Deeb: Thank you. [ Applause ] I just want to thank the
University of Maryland. I want to thank Fatemeh
and everybody who has done such fantastic work with
us, who have supported us with our exhibit, our version
exhibit, with our series, with the programs done in
our reading room and has done so much to enhance our
Persian collections. And thank you for this award. It was completely unexpected and I will treasure it
for a very long time. So thank you so, so much.>>Fatemeh Keshavarz:
Honestly the pleasure is ours. We really benefitted from this.>>Mary Jane Deeb: And your
present was very special, so thank you very much. You have done so much
to enhance all our work and everything we’ve
done, so thank you. And thank you, Amy for being
there, for being a participant in all our programs and in
having made things richer and more beautiful by your
presence and by your work. So thank you. And thank you, Hirad,
for inviting me and for including
me in this program. I’m very touched. Thank you.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Thank you, everyone. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]>>Hirad Dinavari:
Okay, thank you everyone for coming back for panel two. All right. Yeah, as you see on the
screen, we have a wonderful list of what’s happened, what’s
going to be happening shortly. Panel two is really celebrating
everyone who’s worked on the project. And I have Michelle here
who’s helping me kindly go through the items. I’m going to first introduce a
little video, four-minute video which has been given to us by the Digitization
Services Section. Tom Rieger is the head of
that section and he is going to give a brief description
afterwards. But first let’s enjoy this
four-minute video on behalf of the Library to see how the
Library actually does digitize. [ Music ]>>Physical objects
degrade over time. There are some things
that if we don’t do that, if we don’t digitize them
now, they’ll be lost forever. Here we are in the beginning
of the 21st century in a race against time to save all
of this fantastic material. [ Music ]>>One of the reasons that we
scan and digitize the artifacts at the Library of Congress is to
expose more Americans and people around the world to the
treasures that we hold here. For example, Alexander
Hamilton’s papers are now online. And you can read the letter that
the popular musical references when he talks about the
best of wives and best of women in his own hand.>>We do such a vast
quantity of digitization that most commercial cameras
would fall apart just the way they’re designed and built. They’re not made for this.>>This is volume 91 of the
papers of Abraham Lincoln. Originally it was in the
collection of Mary Todd Lincoln. Robert Todd Lincoln his son
donated them to the Library. This is him riding
with General McClellan. [ Music ]>>In ’97 the Library was
going toward digitization. The technology in ’97 was more
linear which was basically like a flatbed scanner
used still today. A typical document of 8×10 or 12×17 could take
several minutes. Since then we’ve gone to
instant capture technology which now regardless of
the size of the object, it’s about a two-second process. They can look and hone in on
them at 100% and see things that really the naked eye
cannot see having the original in front of them. There could be some notes inside
the gutter of a book for example that are in pencil, very faint. On a digital copy you can
zoom in and actually see. [ Music ]>>Collection is the Farm
Security Administration Office of War Intelligence. So it was about the
’30’s and ’40’s. Because we want these
with a digital surrogate, we want to make sure that
they look a little snappier to the eye, something that
people would want to see. Now we can actually
read what it’s saying which is just amazing. [ Music ]>>When we first put maps online
at the Library of Congress in a bout 1998, we
had 29 of these. And it broke the system because
we were exposing the original TIF image. And pre-2000 the systems just
were not capable of handling that kind of file size. So we went into compressing
the images. We are now using
JPEG 2000 images. We were lucky to
get this printer. It’s 60 inches wide. Initially we only had
about a 30-inch surface. And since you can
see all of our maps, size does matter
in this division. [ Music ]>>We started with megabytes,
quickly went to terabytes. And now we’re dealing with
petabytes and growing. [ Music ]>>Many of the off-the-shelf
cameras today do an amazingly good job, right down
to a cell phone. There have been cases where very
local historic societies or some of the Native American tribes
can’t afford, don’t have access to the kinds of tools
that we would recommend, but they have a cell phone
or they have an iPad. They can capture materials
that might otherwise get lost.>>Well, we released the papers
of Rosa Parks, for example. For the first time you
could read accounts of that day in her own hand. It’s a really great
reminder that these people who we treasure as icons were
real humans who had families and everyday lives and it
really brings a fuller picture of their lived experience.>>It’s all of this wonderful
material that would never, ever see the light of day
unless it were digitized. That’s the neatest project
I’ve worked on here. [ Music ]>>Hirad Dinavari: Okay. If you take a look at the
handouts, the second page of the bio starting with Tom
Rieger, it lists everyone’s bios for the next panel and the
conversation that follows. This way you can follow and see
who does what in more detail. But in order to save time,
I’m going to ask Tom Rieger who is the manager of the
Digitization Services section to speak about the institutional
approach to digitization at the Library of Congress.>>Thomas Rieger: Thank you. All right, good morning. I’m going to paint you a picture that then frames what
we do here, okay? The Library of Congress has —
according to the paper in front of me — 3,096 permanent
employees. These numbers are a little
bit old but not that old. So you know, more
or less, right? We have just short of 170 million items
in our collections. That’s items, right? And we’re adding 12,000 give or take items a day
to the collections. A day. Right? We are the largest
library in the world. We also are the largest
digital library in the world. To give you some sense
of what that includes, we have about close
to 25 million books. We have about 15 million items in the non-classified
print collections, various kinds of things. We have 128.7 million items in non-classified special
collections, including 4 million or so audio materials,
72 million manuscripts. 5.6 million maps. I said thousand. That’s just not real. 17.2 million microforms
of various shapes and sizes and configurations. There’s all sorts of those. 1.8 million moving images. That’s a lot of motion pictures. Okay? And 15.7 million visual
materials which includes about 14.9 million
photographs, 100,000 posters, 680,000 prints and drawings. And just other stuff
of about 3.4 million. That is an enormous
amount of material. So — With all of that
and the recognition that we are the largest
library in the world with amazing materials, we
have a heavy responsibility in how we care for them
and what we do with them. We acquire, we try to acquire
the most important materials in every area of
human knowledge. And I added right at the
end of this human and other. Because we’re starting to
have artificial knowledge, and that’s an interesting
field of how do we collect it. We preserve these
things as best we can. We are the stewards of
these collections and that’s where the amazing
depth of talent of our subject matter
experts, our conservators, our professional staffs
behind the scenes. And they don’t like
to come out and talk, which you’ll see later here. They’re hesitant here
to actually get up and, you know, get recognized. Okay? It’s our task to make
these materials accessible to the world which is what
you heard just before. I couldn’t do it any better,
couldn’t state that any better. That’s why we digitize, is to help make these
things available. And it’s also our task as
the Library of Congress to lead the way for others, to show others how we can do
this, how you can do this. I mentioned in that
little video, if you’ve got nothing else,
you probably have a cell phone or an iPad or something, okay? We can preserve these
items for history. One way or another, there’s no
longer a reason or an excuse for why we can’t do that. Okay? So the digitization program at the library is really
just a small component of what we do here. But it’s one that
I’m really proud to be a part of,
contribute to it. And it’s really, really an
honor to be able to point it out to the world as a model
of how to get things done. I present frequently
to other institutions that are building programs,
starting up and doing this. And they’re absolutely awed by the magnitude
of what we do here. So just to keep this under a few
minutes, here’s a brief overview of what our digital collections
are at this moment in time. We have over 170 million
digital items online right now. 170 million. Okay? Now an item is not a book. An item might be — it might
just be a single manuscript. It’s very difficult
to contextualize that. It could also be
a motion picture. These things are not all
equal, so it’s very difficult but the number I was
given is 170 million. To put it slightly
differently, we have 130 years of audio online right now. And more every day. Just all kinds of materials. We have 6 million MP4
videos online right now. And we have 89 million
PDF files. And of course these
numbers are all obsolete because they weren’t
acquired today. They’re probably
a week or so old. So that’s where we are. Now to give you an ongoing
sense, we’re acquire or we’re digitizing over
7 million files a year. And that is a really
monstrous challenge to decide which 7 million do we do. What’s important? And that’s where the
experts within the library from the director level
on down weigh in on with the resources we have, what’s the most important
next thing to do? And that’s a whole
planning process. It’s a huge effort. It’s an important effort
here at the library. But it assures us that we’re
not just randomly doing things. We’re very careful about
what we select to digitize with all sorts of
viewpoints weighing in on it. How we digitize it. Technology-wise, we
are the best there is. The digitization work we do here
sets the standard for the world. And what about the metadata? How is it discoverable? What’s the condition of it? All of these things have
to weigh in to the program that we do for digitization. And again, this is a model that other institutions
are following. So thank you and
with that I’m going to turn it over to the panel. [ Applause ]>>Hirad Dinavari: I have
a question for you, Tom.>>Thomas Rieger: Uh-oh.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Specifically people who worked on this project,
the Persian one, who in your office would you like to specifically
essentially acknowledge and let everyone know who they
were and what work they did?>>Thomas Rieger:
Oh my goodness. That is really hard
because you have the people that are the face
of it, like Sam. Sam Manavong, okay,
who is on my team, but he’s really an expert
in the subject, okay? But then you have the — and I don’t want to mention
too many others because really and truly there are so many. It could be the project
manager that found the funding and arranged to get
the work done. That would be Mike Fisell. Okay. It might be Melissa Hier who coordinated the
original efforts to get that project teed up to be done. There’s dozens of
people involved in this. And it’s — and that’s
probably why they’re so hesitant to actually put their faces
up here and be recognized, because they know that
it’s not just them. It’s so, so many
other people involved.>>Hirad Dinavari: This
is why I want to highlight that there was a whole
network of people involved just in the division that Tom is in. I also want to thank Mike
Newbert for initially helping me with the proposal
for the project.>>Right.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Thank you very much.>>You’re welcome.>>Hirad Dinavari:
I appreciate it. I’m now going to take
a second and ask all of the wonderful
panelists on the next panel who are doing presentations
to come up. Yasmeen, Tamera,
Domemico and Dave Reser, if you could please all
come up and take your seats. We’re also going to go
on a little journey. The journey is going
to be me describing to you what a manuscript, a
Persian manuscript had to go through in order to start from
the Persian rare book cage and end up as a digitized,
you know, virtual being. So for that I’m going to ask my
partner in crime Sam Manavong who is in the digital
team, come up here and give me a little
assistance as well. Sam has been involved
from the get-go. [ Applause ] And I’m going to give him
one of the manuscripts that he has worked
on [foreign name], The Licit Magic by
[foreign name]. He is going to walk around and show folks what an
original looks like so that you don’t see
just the version — just the electronic and
the digital version, but you actually see an
original one as well. So Michelle is going to help
me and I’m going to walk you through a little
bit of a backstory to give you some background on
how this project all came about. You earlier on heard from
Joan Weeks who went over all of the various projects — all of the various projects
that the Near East Section and especially the African
Middle Eastern Division have worked on. Well, I started working with the
Persian Language Rare Materials mainly — and especially
digitization — mainly with the World Digital
Library Project that started in I think 2009 or ’08. ’08 or ’09. And continued for
a number of years. World Digital Library had
several simultaneous projects. Two of them involved me. The first one was the Islamic
Manuscripts that involved about five Persian manuscripts. The rest were Arabic
and Turkish. And the Afghan project which
the Carnegie Corporation had supported. And we selected about 20
manuscripts in Persian and over 80 lithographs
in Persian. Then there was a good amount of
[inaudible] materials as well. And the goal of that project was to digitize content,
make it available. And then a copy of
these were sent back to various institutions
in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is war-torn,
this allowed generations in Afghanistan to essentially
have high-resolution images of their own heritage. But first, before we
go into all of that, what exactly is the
Iranian world? What exactly is Persian? Most people are not familiar. My colleague Michael Chyet is
going to get into detail on this in the conversation later. This is a map, just so
you can frame your mind. From the west in Anatolia,
the Kurdish regions, all the way to the east in
Pakistan and Afghanistan up into China, the
Balotia and Pustia regions and the Pameri languages. These are the range of
Iranic or Iranian languages. The next slide is more
specific to our program. In green they have the
three main dialects if you like or forms of Persian. Farsi in Iran and
Dari in Afghanistan and Tajiki in central Asia. And so you see that Persian is
spoken in a fairly large area. 110 million people speak it. So historically Persian
was spoken and used in the gunpowder empires that you’re seeing here
in the medieval era. The Mughals in India,
the Safavids in Persia. Back one. And also the Ottomans
in the — what do you call it? Much of the Near East
and North Africa. Now the Ottomans used
Turkish and Arabic as well, but Persian was another language
that was used simultaneously. In the central area, what
is now Iran, Afghanistan and central Asia,
that’s the heartland and the birthplace
of the language. And the Mughals in India,
Muslim rulers of India, used it for 400-500 years
as the official language. So that’s the legacy of how
wide the language was used. The World Digital Library’s
goal was to digitize and make available materials
in all these various languages. And under the Afghan project we
digitized a substantial amount. And you can see the description
on the screen of materials from Afghanistan and
about Afghanistan. Next. So here is a little
bit more background. If you look at the second
paragraph on the screen, all those Afghan
institutions got a copy of all the materials
we digitized. Next. And here is the
picture and the ceremony in which Dr. Haden gave
the Afghan minister of culture copies of all
the digital materials for him to take back. As well as Vertong Gregorian who is representing the Carnegie
Corporation in the image. I specifically want to thank two
people who worked hand-in-glove with us on the World
Digital Library team. Chris Masiangelo
and Sandy Bastian. There was a huge network of
people that were involved, but the two of them worked very
closely with all the Persian and Afghan-related
material with us. And then next, another
thing was happening. Around 2012 there was an
interest in doing a display and an exhibition
for our program. I mean, for our materials. And we started the proposal
process and had an exhibition. And we went to the
Iranian American community and you see their names here,
and raised a good amount of funding in order to
have the exhibition. And the exhibition showcased
— you can keep going — showcased a number of — about
40 manuscripts and lithographs that grabbed a lot of attention and people were very
interested in this material. And as a result, after
we digitized materials for the Afghan WDL project
and had an exhibition, there was a real interest in
making this material accessible to people all over
the US and the world. And to digitize everything,
not just the front page on the exhibit but the
front to the back of the — thank you, that’s perfect. One back. No, one after this. Yeah, that’s great. So essentially that same
year after we decided to work on our rare materials,
we got fellows, and that year we had four
wonderful fellows in 2014 for the African Middle
Eastern Division. And I got a wonderful fellow
by the name of Amanda Lanzillo who worked on my rare
Persian materials in the cage and made a hands list of all
the manuscripts, lithographs, early imprints and contents
that were in the Persian cage. Here you can see her –>>I’m working with the Persian
manuscripts and rare books, helping to organize and
eventually create a hand list for all of the rare books,
lithographs and manuscripts. So we have everything from
the extremely rare manuscript printed in the 14th century to very nice coffee table
books done with a modern press.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Okay, so you get an idea of what this is about. We are not going to show you the
whole video, but it’s available on YouTube for you to see. Amanda started working on
it with me for four months and we put together a hand list. At the same time in this
period, we were asked by Library Services to submit
proposals for digitization. And the director at
the time had asked us and I submitted a
proposal for — and you see the proposal here — digitizing all the
rare materials. Anything that was
not done by WDL that was rare Persian
manuscripts, lithographs or early imprints and book
bindings, Islamic book bindings, or added to a four-part project. What you are seeing and we are
celebrating today is part one, which is 170 Persian manuscripts
that have now been digitized. The lithograph and other
portions are about to be started and they’re going to
continue for the future years. There’s about 600 lithographs,
about 150 early imprints and about 100-200 Islamic
book bindings from all over the Islamic world. This is essentially the
journey that a manuscript took. Now you saw some over there. But mainly there were
several workflows. The main workflow was at the
book from the Persian cage over to conservation where Tamar and Alan Hailey would
kindly look at it and decide if it needed treatment or not. And the items that were
passed, that would go cataloging and Alan Mayberry at the
time and later Michael Chyet, our catalogers, would
catalog them. Then it would go to
Domenico and Sergei’s team, Miss Courtney Winston and
others who worked in that office to essentially scan
the materials. The files were then
processed also by them. Andrew Cook comes
to mind at the time. I’m mentioning names of
people I worked with directly. Then some of the items needed
post-scanning treatments, so they would go
back to conservation. Other items did not. And then it would finally
go back to the cage. Now this is the general workflow
for most of the material. Not all of them followed this. Some were too brittle
and ended up going to conservation and
staying there. Some got cataloged first. But this was the
general direction. After everything was
scanned, they essentially went to the web design team and
Chris Demar and others worked to use the existing library’s
project, one mechanism to create a digital project. And that’s when this last
fall, I would say November and December, the work started
on putting together the website. If you go to the next one. Let me also backtrack
a little bit. For a while as things were
being scanned, they were sitting on the back end on a
server under those links that you’re seeing,
under the name PLMP, Persian Language
Manuscript Project. So as we were scanning them,
you see M001 is manuscript one. M002 is manuscript two. Go ahead. They were
being scanned into large 700-DPI TIF files. And eventually — go ahead —
when the project was finalized and the web design was done,
we had this gorgeous page that you’re seeing now. If you could go to the website. Thank you. And essentially — yeah. The website was born as
of March 20th of this year in time for Persian new year. Anyway, the website’s
available online and you can go ahead
and look through it. But essentially 155 of the
manuscripts are fully digitized and they’re up right now. Essentially I just
wanted to put up the names of everyone who worked on this. So Amanda Lanzillo,
as you see over there, Michael Newbert and
Sam Manavong. Conservation, these are the
people I work with directly. There are about 50-60 people
library-wide that were involved. But these were the ones
that I worked with closely and therefore I have
mentioned them and put their names up here. I also wanted to mention in
the scan lab for a good period of time we had a workflow in
which Jan Lancaster would come and go through every
manuscript and lithograph and make sure she had the right
pagination and make comments on whatever repairs and items
that needed to be scanned. That was a huge task that
took almost a year to do, and I’m extremely grateful. At the web design
side also I wanted to mention besides Chris
Demar, Bill Kelham as well as Brock Sussman who worked
extensively on the project. The Library also was interested
in our manuscript project and wanted to actually see them. I was given the honor of putting
together a nice display for her so she could see
the manuscripts. And she was very, very much
impressed and interested in how beautiful they are. Now we are going to move
from my little journey with the manuscript
over to our wonderful distinguished speakers. And each of them is going to
highlight what I talked about. So from conservation
we have Yasmeen Khan who for years has
worked with us on many of our projects in Ahmed. And she’s now our head
of the Paper Conservation and former conservation division
liaison for digital projects. But she’s involved pretty much
with digital content as well. And then Tamera Ohanyan is also
the senior book conservator who pretty much worked on all
of the 170 Persian manuscripts and made sure that
they were all worked — you know, either ready for
scanning or were treated or other work that’s being
done now post-scanning. But of them have a little
presentation and I’m going to have them come up
and do their part. Thank you for your
patience and thanks for listening to the journey. [ Applause ]>>Yasmeen Khan:
Hello, everybody. I’m here to speak on behalf
of my colleague Alan Hailey, conservation liaison
for digital projects who can’t be here today
as he’s traveling. He’s in New York
for work, he says. He acts as coordinator for the
stabilization and treatment of collections materials
brought to conservation for the pre-scanning, for
all scanning preparation and represents the Conservation
Division’s interest throughout the duration of the
scan projects. In addition, he is the lead of the four-person Conservation
Division Digitization Team that works slowly on
digitization projects. And this is one of many, many
projects that they worked on. The Conservation
Division’s participation in the digitization process
ensures the protection of the collection
during the image process which has the potential to put original materials
at risk for damage. And the slide that Hirad
showed of the, you know, the little circles and how
the work process goes — at every single step
the book is gone through from the
beginning to the end. So actually often the process
itself is the most amount — represents the most number of times the book has
actually been handled in the past 50 years. And in the next few
years as well. So digitization puts a lot of
pressure on the object itself in the process of digitization. We often start by lending
a voice to discussions on which type of scanning
equipment will be most — oh, can you go back
to this slide? Okay, this is it. On the type of scanning
equipment that will be most favorable
for materials that are in less than ideal conditions. And how that equipment
might affect materials of different formats. In the same spirit, the
Conservation Team provides care and safe handling instructions
for all scan operators working within the library
on rare materials, specifically tailoring
the instruction to focus on the types of collection
materials within each project. As well as the equipment
assigned for the project. In addition, a more general
scan station best practices is also covered. In this setting,
an essential line of communication
gets established between the scanning staff,
the images and everybody and the conservation
team which is useful as the project progresses
and unforeseen problems with the materials arise. As early as possible
in the planning stages of the scan project,
conservationists try to conduct an informal survey. Sampling collections items
included in the proposal to understand, one, the likely
impact stabilizing these materials will present
to the conservation team. Two, the skills required
within conservation to prepare those materials. And three, the conservation
supplies that will be needed to complete the project. And depending on the project,
if it’s 15,000 music sheets, that means a lot of folders
and all kinds of things that have to be ordered. This impact on the Conservation
Division is given a feasibility score and is weighed along
with the project’s impact on other stakeholders including
cataloging, copyright, metadata and several presentation
parts of the library, before official approval
is given for any digitization project. After approval of the project, the conservation team begins
an item-by-item assessment to select the material, noting
condition, acceptable degree of opening if it
is a bound object, and treatment requirements
to enable the capture of a complete image
of the original with all its informational
content. Treatments for scanning projects
can vary from the minimal to complex and might include
cleaning, disbinding, mending, aqueous treatment, use of
organic solvents, consolidation of pigments and much, much more. For some items that are
particularly hard to handle due to size, fragility or
format, such as scrolls, the conservation team will
provide special handling assistance at the time
of the image capture, working with scan operators
to ensure the safety of the item during the process. And as Hirad mentioned, occasionally follow-up
assessments and post-scan treatments for
some items will be required, especially for books that have
been disbound for treatment. Such materials are less risky
to scan before being resewn. So they’re scanned
and then returned to conservation for binding. If we could go to the
next slide, Michelle. Thank you. We knew from the
initial sampling of the Persian manuscript
collection that this project would
require thorough knowledge of conservation of materials
found in Islamic manuscripts and Persian manuscripts. The more thorough survey
revealed condition issues that would need to be addressed. For example, 70% of the bound
volumes were heavily damaged by insects and use. 100% showed service
dirt and accretions. 10% had cracked ruling
lines around the text where copper-containing
pigments had been applied. So the text area was
falling out of the page. 80% of the collection
had brittle mends, many covering text. 15% of the volumes had
deteriorated leather covers. And 20% of the collection
was mold damaged, seriously weakening
the leaves of the book. So Tamera Ohanyan,
senior book conservator of the conservation team,
led the treatment efforts for this collection, bringing
to the project a vast knowledge and experience in
treatment techniques. And her superior judgement in
developing treatment proposals and tight management to prepare
all these severely damaged items for the completion
of the project. And this survey was of all 170
manuscripts that were digitized. As seen in these images,
insect damage was pervasive and presented a formidable
set of challenges both to the conservator and
to the scanning staff. The insects, possibly
silverfish, often eat through a bound
volume leaving a Swiss cheese appearance, resulting in
isolating fragments of paper that fall loose and float free. For the conservator, the
book becomes a puzzle of interlocking fragments that
must be carefully positioned and rejoined with
gossamer thin paper to make the leaf intact once
again without covering text, without making text
illegible rather. Without the conservators’
careful intervention the manuscript would not be handled. The solubility of the
carbonates and pigments used in these manuscripts added
difficulty, as conservators had to use non-aqueous adhesives
and methods to treat them. Slide three, Michelle. From right to left
here we see — well, from left to left
actually we see our rare book conservation intern, graduate
intern, Natalia Malega, treating one of the more
badly damaged artifacts in the collection under
Tamera’s direction. And the Conservation Division
digital preparation team on the left is made up of four
members, all of whom contributed in important ways
to this project and many other digitization
projects. Alan Hailey, closest to me. Kate Morrison Dansis, Rachel
Bissonette and Tamera Ohanyan. And she’s now going to
describe for you two of her Persian manuscript
treatments. Tamera? [ Applause ]>>Tamera Ohanyan: Thanks. In the past few years
I’ve been working on conservation treatment
of bound and flat Persian
language manuscripts. I performed both complex
and simple treatments for this collection dating
from 15th century to 19th. Today I will talk
about treatment of two items from this project. The first is an 18th-century
Islamic Persian genealogical scroll from India,
beautifully illuminated and written in Persian language. It is important religious
as well as legal document. The scroll is formed of
seven paper fragments of different length. As is common, the text is
contained with the panels which are delineated
by red and blue ink. The writing contains 30
different calligraphy styles. There are written texts
on the scroll margins from the great poets of Persia. The illumination has
floral geometrical designs. The scroll was in poor condition and has had many
physical damages. Due to the thickness of the
paper and old cloth lining, the scroll was not lying
flat but popping up and creating peaks
along creases. For scanning, the
treatment required flattening of the peaks. To do that, the full
treatment was performed. Paper was dry cleaned,
humidified, flattened and mended both on
dorsal and versal. The rolling diameter of
the scroll was changed and custom designed
housing was made. I’ve provided safe handling
assistance during the digitization process. And you can see pictures
before treatment — Before treatment and
then after treatment. The second item is
18th-century [foreign name] Persian manuscript. The paper is decorated
with wood block prints in amber color paint with burns
in and black over painting. There are geometrical
and floral scenes in the design as well as script. The main script was
in poor condition with many paper losses, stains
from water and with no cover. In addition, restricting
the opening of the book to 45 degrees at the most. And I provided the following
treatment for this item. Pages were dry cleaned,
then with the help of my two other colleagues
I made new paper on a lathe casting machine
which had the characteristics of the original warm paper. Pages were mended,
guarded and resewn. And at the end a new leather
cover was made sympathetic to the style and the
time of manuscript. And I want to make
a little remark that I’m not the only
conservator in conservation who worked on this project. I coordinated this project but there are other senior
book conservators, technicians and past and former interns
working on this project. Then Kate, Rachel and Natalia
are here as representatives.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Thank you very much. Thank you Tamera for the
detail, and thank you Yasmeen. Domenic, I think if you like
you can do your presentation from there because you have
the screen in front of you. And yes, we would
love to hear from you. Yeah.>>Domenico Sergi: Is this on? Yeah, okay. My name is Domenic and I manage
the Digital Scan Center here at the Library and work
closely with every team that has presented here
today on every project. Okay. So we are responsible
for following the requirements that are given to us
by the division — Conservation Division, especially for the material
handling side of things. We choose the equipment based
on those recommendations. In this case, we did
this project at a 600-PPI on each page of these documents. And we also shoot everything at
a 1-to-1 of its original size. That way it’s recorded
as it actually is. Color is very important
in this business, so we use the color
checker you see there to my right, to everyone’s
right. And so we shoot the aim
points on this color checker to achieve the most valued
colors for representation. The gray chart on the left side
is to measure the resolution and the measurement
of the items. So we use these two
targets — I’m sorry — at the beginning of each session
as we set up our cameras. The lighting is also
set up based on the items we’ll be shooting. They’re set up for contrast
and they rake across the items to cut, allows us to
capture as much detail because of the wonderful
illustrations in these books. The gold leaf for example has
to be lit up a certain way. Okay. Okay, next.>>Hirad Dinavari: The
clicker isn’t working?>>Domenico Sergi: Oh, sorry. Okay. So we had — Courtney
Wessington was our project leader within my group. And she worked on a variety of
cameras with other colleagues. Here she’s shown using a P65 which is a 65-megapixel
camera back. It’s an instant capture
device set up on a cradle — I’m sorry, a copy stand with
a special cradle for items that would only open
at a certain degree. So this particular item
she’s working with we had to shoot one side at a time. And then it’s later
electronically collated and file renamed
and all of that. The lighting you can see is set
up to the side so that we light up the gutter and there are no
shadows presented in the image. And the glass you see there
is not putting any pressure at all on the item. It’s just there to keep the
page as flat as possible so that in case it does lift up
slightly it’ll meet the glass and gives us a nice shot. Next one. Okay, here we have also a book
scanner in-house that’s a dual camera system equipped with
60-megapixel camera backs. And this has a built-in cradle
along with a rare book modulator that works in conjunction
with that cradle. So as the glass comes down,
the cradle moves with it so there’s no weight or
pressure put on any one item. One click is two
shots in this case. So we’re shooting both
sides simultaneously. You can see the image to the
right, there’s two screens and two processors
that run this device. And up close here to the
left is the item under glass which is again no
pressure at all. I didn’t do that. Did you do that?>>Hirad Dinavari:
Want to go back?>>Domenico Sergi: No. So here then we use our IXG-100 which is a 100-megapixel
camera back. Courtney was setting up
the genealogy scroll here that Tamera was just
talking about. After treatment it came to us,
and given its size we scanned it in different sections,
keeping it in order. Okay, next. And that’s the scroll. So as each image was produced, we’d have different sections
starting with the one on the left being
the first shot, the one on the right being
second, with a good amount of overlap in each
image that allows us to electronically
stitch beside them and do a nice seamless
stitch to it. So it’s a continuous flow. And below it is the entire
scroll in digital form.>>Okay, next? Okay, Dave Reser is now going to
speak about cataloging metadata and the joys of getting
all the information coded in for the records.>>David Reser: I’ve been
asked to do a lot of things in my 30 years at the Library. But one of them is today
the challenge of trying to make metadata
interesting, when in the context of my colleagues doing
conservation and scanning, it’s not that metadata
isn’t important. It’s the most important
part of this process. And so we help with this by the
identification of the materials that are going to be scanned
and then handing those off to our bibliographic
access colleagues who actually do the cataloging. We have one representative
today, Michael Chyet who did a fair number
of the content here, as well as Alan Mayberry
who has since retired. And he did the rest of them. So we have a picture
here of Michael working on cataloging some manuscripts. And the slide — Michelle? Thanks.>>Hirad Dinavari:
Okay, next one.>>David Reser: The metadata
work also involves people like Sam Manavong who we’ve
identified several times now who — we have to sign digital
ID’s to these things so that as they go through the whole
process we of course know which article we’re talking
about at any one time. Because most of us in this
process don’t recognize Persian from Arabic, from anything else. So Sam helps us out by
signing digital ID’s, setting up storage space
where the files will go on the servers once the
things are scanned themselves. And then we work with
lots of spreadsheets that we share amongst ourselves. Go to the next slide. Just an example of that slide. Some spreadsheets that
we share as we go. And then it all results in once
we have the digital content files in the proper directories and the catalog records
already made, then the magic really happens where a process merges
together the content files and the metadata and
presents them on our website for that digital collection. And Hirad and people in
Ahmed do have to do a lot of additional work to identify,
“Gee, what are the splashiest, prettiest ones to put at
the top of the screen?” What is for each
item particularly — and not so much appropriate
for manuscripts that are usually a single page. But when there are
multiple pages, what’s the most interesting page
to display with that content? And so here we work with some
of the people Hirad identified, particularly Christ Demar in our digital collections
management services who works with us and with the
developers in our Office of the Chief Information Officer
to make this presentation.>>Hirad Dinavari: Okay, now I
would go to the question farm but unfortunately we
are running out of time. So I’m going to start
with the conversation and we’ll do questions
at the very end. So hold onto your questions
for all the lovely speakers. Thank you, everyone. Thank you, everyone,
for your presentations. For taking the time to do this. Thank you. [ Applause ] Thank you so much. And now we’re going to have the
head of the Near East Section, Dr. Anchi Hoh and our next
speakers, Lee Ann Potter and Michael Chyet have
a little conversation about what you see
on the screen. Teaching with manuscripts,
yes, and the Library can help.>>Anchi Hoh: Thank you, Hirad.>>Hirad Dinavari:
You’re very welcome.>>Anchi Hoh: Good
morning, everyone. Hi. Thank you for being with us. And thank you, Hirad,
for introduction. So — This morning you
have already heard about how these Persian
manuscripts can contribute to the study of culture,
literature, art history and so on, so forth. And you also have learned about how these manuscripts are
being digitized and preserved at the Library of Congress. And we heard from that
first panel discussion that there is a huge level,
high level of interest in applying these manuscripts
to education, particularly 8-12. And I know we have
some specialists here who have been really very eager
to try to address that question, to have a conversation with you
about that particular topic. So this particular
conversation is about teaching with manuscripts, yes,
the library can help. Now not everyone knows
Persian, so how do we do that? How do we, you know,
embark on this effort of promoting manuscripts in
education and outreach efforts? So we’re going to
talk about that. I would like first of all to
introduce our two panelists, and I think it’s important
to tell you a little bit about their backgrounds so
then it will make sense for you to hear their conversations. Lee Ann Potter who is the
director of the Office of Learning and Innovation
at the Library of Congress. She leads a talented
team committed to developing engaging
educational programs and materials based
on primary sources. And before coming to the
Library, she was a — she directed educational and
volunteer programs at NARA, National Archive and Records
Administration, for 16 years. And prior to that, she worked
at the Smithsonian on a project to build museum/school
partnerships. And prior to that she was a high
school social studies teacher. Lee Ann has published
very widely on the topic of using primary sources
in professional education. So we are so happy
to have you, Lee Ann. And Michael to my left — Dr.
Michael Chyet, he is a cataloger at the Library of Congress. And he catalogs books in Middle
Eastern languages including Persian, Kurdish,
Turkish, Arabic, Syriac. He is also a linguist
and a folklorist. And he offers courses
in Kurmanji and Sorani Kurdish via Skype. So the first edition of his Kurmanji/English
dictionary appeared in 2003, and I understand that the
updated edition is coming out soon. And Michael has also published
widely and presented a lot of papers at symposiums and
conferences on the topic of Middle Eastern
language learning. So we’re so happy to
have you both here. And since our time is
brief, let’s dive in. Okay. So the very
first question, let’s tackle this
basic question. So what is the Persian
language and who speaks it? Maybe Michael and Lee
Ann, you have comments?>>Lee Ann Potter: You
tell us what it is, I’ll tell you who’s speaking it.>>Michael Chyet:
Can you hear me? So when we use the term Persian
and English, it’s very general. It’s spoken in several countries
and it’s called different things in those different countries. So in Iran it’s called Farsi. Iran used to be called Persia. And so Persian came from that. And the province of Fars
where the city of Shiraz is, is where that name comes from. So in Iran it’s called Farsi. In Afghanistan it’s generally
called Dari, the court language. And both in Afghanistan and in Iran it’s written
in the Arabic script. Now in central Asia, in
Tajikistan and in some of the major cities
in Uzbekistan, since the Soviet period it’s
written in Cyrillic script and there it’s called Tajik. So if somebody is speaking Tajik
and someone is speaking Persian, they can generally
understand each other but they wouldn’t
necessarily be able to read each other’s writing if they don’t know
each other’s alphabet. And we have this situation
also with Azerbaijani and also with Kurdish where in different
countries the languages are written in different alphabets.>>Lee Ann Potter: Yeah. Everything Michael is
saying just makes me grin because there’s so much that
he knows that we don’t know. And in the course of
preparing for this, every conversation we had, I
would go home and I would talk to my 16-year-old
and I would tell her, I would say, “Hey,
did you know?” And her reaction
was, “I had no idea. Actually that’s kind
of interesting.” And yeah, it’s really
interesting. So today about 500,000
individuals in the United States are able to
speak some variety of Persian. What Michael was saying about the written language
is just so fascinating. But beyond that, as far as
numbers go, around the world, around 110 million individuals around the world are
speaking Persian. And when we started
looking at these materials and talking about, what is
their value in a K-12 classroom? Well, we have to accept that well chances are good
the value isn’t necessarily from the get-go the language. Simply because the language
could present a barrier. And then we delve in deeper
into these conversations and I’ll let you keep going.>>Anchi Hoh: Oh sure.>>Lee Ann Potter: I know
you want to keep going and I want to show my picture.>>Anchi Hoh: Wonderful, yes. We’re really eager to see that.>>Lee Ann Potter: Not
that one, but it’s okay.>>Anchi Hoh: All right. So now we kind of — go ahead.>>Lee Ann Potter:
Yeah, that’s the one.>>Anchi Hoh: Oh now,
don’t show it yet.>>Lee Ann Potter:
But we’ll get there.>>Anchi Hoh: We’ll get there.>>Lee Ann Potter:
We’ll get there.>>Anchi Hoh: We prepared quite
a bit for this conversation and throughout the discussions
it was every session we met was very exciting. So we’re very eager to
talk about this with you, to have a conversation
about this particular topic. Now Michael, your
background is so intriguing. You are a cataloger but you’re
also a language instructor. You’re a linguist
and folklorist.>>Michael Chyet:
And folk dancer.>>Anchi Hoh: And folk dancer. And very importantly,
we have you here because you are intimately
involved in the Persian language
digitization project. And you have cataloged a lot
of these materials, manuscripts and I know there
are more to come. Lithographs and early prints. So you know, wearing so
many different identities, how do you — how do you see —
what is your experience in using such primary materials
in your teaching, in your language instruction
and also as a cataloger? Can you share a little bit
of your insight with us?>>Michael Chyet: Well
first of all I want to say that what Alan Mayberry
and I do — are you going to cough
or am I going to talk? Make up your mind right now. What Alan Mayberry and I
do would not be possible without the help of some of the native speakers
with whom we work. Hussein Yunesi from
Afghanistan and Fate Stewart who is a native speaker of
Persian but grew up in Baghdad and so she’s fluent in
both Arabic and Persian. And very often without their
help we would have been unable to do as accurate
a job as we did. And they very often
go unnoticed. So I just want to put the
focus on them for a little bit. So examples of how working in the Library has enhanced
my own work, my own research. I can give you an
example from, well, working on my Kurdish
dictionary. We got a book which
was in French. It was an ethnography
of a Yazidi village in Armenia and it had pictures. And it talked about
something called a star, not the English word star. It’s probably from the
Arabic word sitar meaning to hide something. But in the Middle
East in general, when people get married
the couple are given as a gift a sumptuous pile of
handwoven quilts and cushions, and those are proudly displayed in the salon, in
the living room. Where the guests are
entertained when they come. And this in Kurdish is called a
star I found out from that book. Because it had pictures
of it and everything. I thought, “You know, I don’t
have that word in my dictionary. I would like to include it but I don’t have
enough information yet.” So just by coincidence, about
six months later there appeared on my desk this book which the
Armenian cataloger Paul Krego had left there. It was published in
Armenia in Armenian and in Kurdish in
Cyrillic script. Kurdish in three different
alphabets at least. So it was versions of what in
Turkish is called “kiralu.” In Armenian they say “giralo.” Same basic story. So I started reading
one of the stories in there just out of curiosity. And on the first
page it’s talking about how this person had been
given a jewel and she wanted to hide it so where
did she hide it? In the star. The exact same thing
that I had — so here I had an
actual use of it. I wouldn’t have understood
what it was talking about if I hadn’t seen
that earlier book. So then I knew that I could
add it to my dictionary and actually have
examples of its usage and bibliographic examples of where it occurs
and stuff like that. And where would I
have seen these things if I hadn’t been working
here at the Library? I wouldn’t have known
of their existence. So this is just one little
example of how what I do in my daily work at the Library
and my scholarship just sort of flow in and out
of each other. I found my niche.>>Anchi Hoh: That’s great. And also on the screen you
can see a page from this book, the book of Indian castes and
king’s folk [foreign name]. It’s actually in the Asian
Collection, but it’s in Persian. And we wanted to showcase
this particular page, this particular piece because
it shows you the diversity of Persian culture. And that also speaks to what
Michael was saying earlier about the definition of Persian
and how widely it’s spoken. And I know Michael, you
have another example about [foreign name]
that you worked on as one of the manuscripts that
you have cataloged. And do you have some
anecdotes to share?>>Michael Chyet: Well, one
of the Persian translations of it is called [foreign name]. But for one thing
it’s apparently originally [inaudible]. So it’s originally from India
and then it was translated into Persian — well, into
Arabic by [foreign name], then into Persian as well. Well, [foreign name]
and [foreign name]. So we have these stories
throughout the Middle East. My favorite story
is the story called in Arabic [foreign
name] The Monkey and The Tortoise, the turtle. And do you want me
to tell it briefly? Do we have time?>>Anchi Hoh: Yeah,
sure, briefly.>>Lee Ann Potter: I want to
interrupt just long enough to explain where this
conversation began. We were meeting in my office. We were talking about
what is it about Persian that we already know even if we
don’t think we know anything? And we were talking about
things like there are words in Persian that we all know. Words like [foreign word]. I was like, “Ooh, give
me more of those.”>>Michael Chyet: Cummerbund.>>Lee Ann Potter: Cummerbund. There were more. And I think you know
where we’re going. So we were talking about –>>Michael Chyet: Orange.>>Lee Ann Potter: Orange. And then we started
talking about, “Okay, above and beyond
the words in Persian that we’re familiar
with, what other places or what other elements of Persian could be very
relatable in a K12 classroom?” So Michael started telling
these fabulous riddles. And who doesn’t love
a good riddle? And then he started telling me
these folk stories and explained that a lot of the folk
stories that he has stumbled across in these collections
are from materials that are separated by
distance and separated by time, but they’re the same story. And then we started getting into
these fabulous conversations that really were
all about, you know, the fellowship of
the human spirit. And with that I’ll let
you tell your good story, or you can start with a riddle. [ Laughter ]>>Michael Chyet: Well,
several things come to mind, but instead of all
that, I want you to look around at these six arches.>>Lee Ann Potter: That’s good.>>Michael Chyet: You see that
each of them has two signs of the Zodiac, if
you look around.>>Lee Ann Potter: That’s cool.>>Michael Chyet: So I wanted — this is something which
I thought particularly for kids would be —
they’d get a kick out of. So there are all these different
calendars floating around. There’s the Gregorian
calendar is what people in the west are most
familiar with. There’s the Islamic calendar. There’s the [foreign name], the
lunar calendar which is very — which is used, well
everywhere in the Islamic world, but particularly in the
Arabic-speaking Muslim world. And then in Iran and Afghanistan
they have [foreign name], so the solar calendar. And the new year’s for that
is March 21st, the beginning of the spring equinox. And what else begins
on March 21st?>>Lee Ann Potter: Spring.>>Michael Chyet:
Spring [inaudible] and the horoscopes, the Zodiac. Because the Iranian
solar calendar is exactly the horoscopes. So for instance I’m a Leo. August 2nd happens
to be my birthday. But the period that the Zodiac
sign Leo covers is July 23rd till August 22nd. That is a month in the
Iranian solar calendar. So I mean, people are
familiar with the horoscope, but they didn’t know in general that it is exactly the
Iranian solar calendar. I think that makes it seem
more familiar, less strange.>>Anchi Hoh: You can actually
see a lot of these discussions about Zodiac or astrology,
astronomy in these manuscripts.>>Michael Chyet: When
you have the dates — when you have to date the
calendar, if you’re lucky enough to date the manuscript or the
lithograph for that matter. If you’re lucky enough to have
something in the [inaudible] at the end, possibly
on the title page at the beginning too,
it may have a date. But one point that I
want to make is the names of those months in
Iran are different than the names in Afghanistan. In Iran for instance
you have [foreign word] or [foreign name],
[foreign name], et cetera. Those go back to pre-Islamic
ancient Iranian culture. In Afghanistan they’re actually
called the Arabic name — Arabic, not the Persian [foreign
name], but the Arabic name for that sign of the Zodiac. So for instance I’m a Leo. In Iran I would be
called a Mordadi. Mordad is the month July
23rd to August 22nd. In Afghanistan it’s Assad which
is the Arabic word for Leo.>>Lee Ann Potter: Leo, yep.>>Michael Chyet: And
I found it over there. It’s that one.>>Anchi Hoh: Yeah, so actually
Lee Ann was explaining a little bit why we were talking
about [foreign name]. Because a lot of these folklores
actually that we know today or you know, as children,
they are from these cultures, Persian cultures and such. You know, the one that
you’re going to explain –>>Michael Chyet: Do you still
want me to tell that story?>>Yes.>>Michael Chyet: Okay.>>Anchi Hoh: I think so. Yeah.>>Michael Chyet: Well, since
I’ve already put my foot in my mouth and I promised it. So [foreign name], The
Monkey and The Tortoise. So the story goes that a
monkey had left its home and had climbed up
into a tree right next to a body of water, a pond. And he kept shaking it and it
turns out it was a fig tree. And without realizing it, he was knocking figs
down into the water. And there was a [foreign word],
there was a tortoise there who was eating them
and was very grateful. He wanted him to keep shaking. So anyway, they struck
up a friendship and they became friends. Well, the monkey’s
wife was jealous and when he came back
home, she told him that — No, wait a minute. No, I’m sorry. It’s the tortoise’s
wife who was jealous. She told him that the doctor
had prescribed her the heart of a monkey. And she wanted to get rid of the
monkey because she was jealous. She wanted her husband
all to herself. So he came back and he
felt a little bit sheepish. How’s he going to say this? So he said, “I would
like to invite you home. So climb on my back and
I’ll take you back home.” So they’re on their
way in the water, and the tortoise says
sort of sheepishly, “Well, one of the reasons that
I invited you home is because my wife has been
prescribed a monkey heart.” And the monkey said, “Oh,
I wish you had told me. I left my heart up
in that tree.” [ Laughter ] “So, you know, unless
we go back and get it, I won’t be able to help you.” So they went back and the
monkey climbed off the back of the tortoise,
climbed up into the tree. And of course he
wasn’t going to go back. He said, “Sorry.” So I’ve always loved that story,
and I remember years ago — I can’t remember whether it was
here at the Library of Congress or whether it was when I was at UC Berkeley working
in the library there. But I saw a [foreign name]
version of this for children.>>Lee Ann Potter: Oh my God.>>Michael Chyet: You
know, it was that story.>>Anchi Hoh: That is lovely.>>Michael Chyet: I think it’s
even got an [inaudible] type number, which I should have
checked but I don’t remember.>>Anchi Hoh: There you go. So with that, I have a
question for Lee Ann.>>Lee Ann Potter: Yeah.>>Anchi Hoh: So manuscripts
are not just old ancient texts, you know, from children or from
K-12 students’ perspective.>>Lee Ann Potter: Right.>>Anchi Hoh: Right? They’re so much fun. There’s so much in there
that they can learn from. So my question for you, Lee Ann,
is that as a former teacher, school teacher of history,
geography, social sciences, what is your reaction
to these primary sources such as the Persian manuscripts? And how do teachers — how can
they approach these foreign language materials to
use them in classroom?>>Lee Ann Potter: Yeah.>>Anchi Hoh: So that’s the
question we’ve been dying to know.>>Lee Ann Potter: Well
thank you for asking. So much to say and
so little time. On the screen, I really want to direct your attention
to this screen. The office that I direct here at
the library, we receive funding from Congress for the teaching
with primary sources program that allows us to distribute
grant dollars to organizations that are developing professional
development opportunities for teachers as well
as curriculum. And one of our partners,
an organization that has been a partner of the
libraries for quite some time, is the Cotin Family
Foundation in Los Angeles. And they do a lot of work
with the UCLA Lab School. And were in LA for a
meeting a number of years ago and spent an afternoon
at the Lab School. And I spent most of my afternoon
with the six-year-olds. And I was really excited
about what they were doing because they were working
with digitized images of illuminative manuscripts from the 13th century
that were in Latin. I thought, “You know, when I
was six I don’t remember working with illuminative manuscripts.” But what if I had? So I got very excited about
what this particular teacher was doing and what these
students were up to. So he started by using a
large screen in his classroom that was actually a whiteboard. And he was projecting
an image of one of these illuminative
manuscripts on the board. And he was inviting the children
to come up and identify elements of the page that
caught their attention. And then he had them do a
similar activity by themselves. And his point was that there
is value in these manuscripts, not just by what they say, but
by what else they can teach us. Where do they draw
our attention? What is interesting or unique about the color and
the composition? And so he was using these
manuscripts with six-year-olds to simply hone in
on skills related to paying attention to details. Brilliant. Absolutely fabulous. And similarly, I think whenever
we’re thinking about the value of primary source materials,
we need to recognize that their value is not
just in their content. Because again, that fabulous
story about the monkey and the tortoise is terrific
and it’s in the volumes. But unless you can read
Persian, and depending on what alphabet you can
read Persian in, you may or may not have access to
the content of that story. However, because these
manuscripts have value beyond their content — in other words, what else contributes
to knowledge? It’s not just the
content knowledge we have. It’s the skills that we have. It’s our ability to think and ask questions
and our creativity. And that’s another thing that these manuscripts allow
us to really emphasize. So when this collection went
online, I got really excited about it, just like I do with every collection
that goes online. I start poking around
trying to find, okay, what is it about this collection
that we should be highlighting for teachers either through
our teaching with the Library of Congress blog or through
one of our teacher workshops or through an article
that we’re writing for a professional journal? And I found — or just to capture the attention
again of my 16-year-old. So I identified just for this
morning four items that are part of this larger collection. And as you know, this
collection includes something like 155 complete manuscripts. And I’m showing you four pages. So I’m not even beginning
to scratch the surface of what’s in the collection. But I’m going to play a
little game with you guys. So if you look at the screen
and you look at the object on the far left, what
about it catches your eye? [ Inaudible ] What about the margins? [ Inaudible ] Yeah, excellent. Excellent. Okay, so you notice
there’s different ink. It looks like the handwriting
might be a little bit different, plus you’re writing
in the margin. How many of you have
ever written in the margin of anything? Do you need to know
what this says to know that you have something in
common with the people involved in this manuscript that was
created more than 200 years ago? And that’s another
point I want to make, is that when we’re working
with primary source materials with students, it’s not
just about the content. It’s not just about the skills. There’s something
sort of transcendent, and that is we are
making connections with people who came before us. And so the conversation
earlier today about the value of these materials in
terms of just humanity, and just the organization of
this morning’s conversation, I love that our scholars help us
understand why these materials are important for
humanity and for knowledge. I love that our colleagues who
work in conservation know how to preserve these materials
so that they can perpetuate. I love that my colleagues
who work in digitization and who work in metadata,
Dave, important metadata, enable these materials
to be accessible. Because I really see
it as sort of a circle. That if we make these
materials accessible and we can introduce
six-year-olds to them, they’re going to become those
scholars who help perpetuate and make these materials
relevant and existent for generations to come. And I really believe that if we
introduce like a six-year-old to the image of the elephant
— by the way, that item, the estimate is that it’s from either the 17th
or the 18th century. Fabulous. You know, what
child isn’t drawn to something that has something that
is also familiar to them? Likewise, the next object,
what caught my eye about both of them was the format. I am a list-maker. And I really like
thinking that maybe one of the reasons I keep
lists is because I like to organize information. And maybe that’s what the people who created those
texts were doing too. And maybe that’s why
the text is in columns. Maybe it has something to do with the organization
of information. I don’t know. Because I don’t read it. But that’s where recognizing
that these materials exist and that there are
people who can. And maybe they can
help me make sense. In fact, when I was finding my
objects, I had to send a couple to Michael to ask him,
“Hey, what does this mean?” Because one of them
was like chart and it reminded me
of a Bingo card. He assured me they were not
playing Bingo, by the way. But again, it got me
thinking about what is it about just the object itself
that’s drawing my attention. And just one last
thing because I know –>>Anchi Hoh: Oh, please.>>Lee Ann Potter: If we can
capture students’ attention and tap into the things
that motivate them and help them see things that
connect them to other people, I think we are doing a service
for them that goes way above and beyond simply
teaching them content. And just so if you’re
curious, the very last object, the blue object from 1383
from Tehran, it’s the book of Psalms written in Persian. Who knew? Anyway, all right. Keep going.>>Anchi Hoh: That’s amazing. So I wanted to also
make a comment in relation to Lee
Ann’s remarks. In the African and Middle
Eastern Division we run a Four Corners of the World blog. And we showcase the collections
we have in our, you know, in our beautiful,
wonderful collections. And so we write blogs
very often. And we have been working
with the Office of Learning and Innovations to figure
out how to translate or transform these
materials for classroom use. And we learned you know, along
the way that Lee Ann’s office and her staff are able to
take our primary sources and turn them into
useful teaching materials. So they will write blogs that
will showcase perhaps one image or two from our collections, and
then pose questions to teachers to help them sort of provoke
thoughts from students. So that is a wonderful
experience. And the other thing
I want to mention is that Lee Ann has
been instrumental in introducing the Omar
Ibn Said collection to high school students. You’ve heard this morning
from Dr. Mary Jane Deeb about the documentary videos that these high school
students made which received over
23,000 views. They’re so excited about it and I know the number
is still growing. And Lee Ann, would you
like to talk a little bit about that experience?>>Lee Ann Potter:
Oh, it was just great. We were brought into
the conversation about the collection early on. And the discussions were about, how can we present these
materials and make them of interest to young audiences? And we asked, to what extent
could we involve young people in the early stages of making
the collection accessible? In other words, could
we bring kids in before the materials
were even available online? And the answer was, sure. Which was exciting. So we worked with two
local high schools and brought high school students
who were — I mean, you know, high schools today,
journalism classes are not like what they once were. These kids are really doing
some terrific video production. And what they did was the kids
came to the Library on a number of occasions, met
with colleagues in different divisions,
had a chance to see objects from
the collection. And they did create
documentaries based on their experience not only
in learning about the life of Omar Ibn Said but also the
process that the Library went through to make those
materials accessible. So it was really quite exciting and of course the students’
reactions were fabulous as far as we were concerned. Because they kept
saying things like, “I’ve never liked history.” And we’re like, “Ah! How can you say that?” But then they do now. And it was because they had a
real intimate experience working with collections and
having the chance to — I wish Anne were still here because I loved her
question this morning that there is something
magical about the original. And having that chance to engage with it really made a huge
difference for those kids.>>Anchi Hoh: Yeah. So there are so many different
ways of engaging students through teacher or really
through hands-on experience, getting students involved early
in exploring these materials and in producing a story
told by themselves. And so I think materials
like, you know, the Omar Ibn Said collection or the Persian language
materials can all be transformed that way into useful purposes. As we’re wrapping up, I would
like to ask you, Lee Ann and Michael, do you have
any additional thoughts that you would like
to make, to add?>>Lee Ann Potter: I just
want to say that again, when we introduce students
to these materials, I really do believe that they
have extraordinary powers to engage students. Because they pique
their interest and make them want to know more. And that’s really our objective. You know, I mentioned
earlier that that activity with the six-year-olds,
getting students to look closely at details and then letting
them reflect on those details and make connections to
other things that they know. And then ultimately those
observations are going to lead to questions. And hopefully the
questions are going to lead to young people wanting
to do research and wanting to pick the brains of the
scholars, and then wanting to become scholars themselves. Recognizing that these
materials are available to them is something that we
absolutely have a responsibility to do.>>Anchi Hoh: Great. And Michael, last thought?>>Michael Chyet:
Again, this is something which might pique the
interest of kids in school. So in the west we generally
think of a binary opposition. Yes and no. Are you coming to the party
we’re throwing this weekend? Yes or no. Of course there’s, “I
really don’t want to but my mother is making me.” It’s basically yes and no. In the Middle East in general
there’s a third possibility [foreign phrase],
“If God wants.” I remember I lived in an
Arab village in Israel for two years in the early 80’s. And when we were first
there, we had a get-together and we asked somebody, “Are
you going to be coming?” And this person said,
[foreign phrase]. But really in the Middle
East there are three options. And somebody who is for
instance a diplomat dealing with the Middle East has got
to take that into account. I mean, it’s a different
cultural view of the world view. And whenever you talk about
the future, like I’m going to Europe this summer, they’ll
always say [foreign phrase]. When you’re talking
about the future, you have to add an
[foreign phrase]. Hebrew has a parallel
incidentally, [foreign phrase] which in Yiddish is
[foreign phrase]. But it’s not — I don’t think that in the Jewish
world people think of it as three separate options like
yes, no and [foreign phrase]. But it’s nice to know
that there is a parallel between Hebrew and Arabic there.>>Anchi Hoh: Absolutely. And you know, I can smell
another opportunity coming as students get to know
more about these materials. They also get to interact with
our specialists, you know, so they learn about
the diversity of cultures through manuscripts. They also get to learn
the intricacies of culture through interacting
with our specialists. I know that we have
already taken too much time, so I would like to thank you
specialists, our guest speakers, Lee Ann Potter and
Michael Chyet. And thank you for
your attention. I’m going to turn the
table back to Hirad. [ Applause ]>>Hirad Dinavari: I would
like to echo that as well and thank everyone for coming. I especially want to
thank Lee Ann for staying through the whole thing. As well, Michael,
you’re very humble. He’s done some of our manuscripts,
all 600 lithographs. He’s now almost finished
with the early imprints. So he’s doing a lot
for this project. And thank you for
working with us all along. [ Inaudible ] There you go. Long and short, it’s
really nice to have you. This whole program
has been filmed. If there is any questions that
anyone feels that they have to ask, let’s take
one or two questions. Because I don’t want all the
panelists to feel — yes, Amy? [ Inaudible ] Absolutely. So we can have — now
that people have met, this is a great opportunity
to get emails and addresses and numbers and network. Any other questions,
burning questions for anyone of the speakers? Conservation, cataloging,
metadata for digitization. Okay. Okay. Okay, good. So again I want to also
say thank you to Sam. Sam, please stand up. You’ve been very humble. He has been with me — [ Applause ] He has been on the
project from the get-go and in many ways he’s done
so much of the legwork on the background
or the back end. So thank you very much. Thank you. Thanks for coming. [ Applause ]

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