Photo: Kahle and MacKie-Mason in conversation

Over the course of the last twenty years, research and cultural heritage institutions have engaged in a massive effort to digitize the world’s knowledge. Digital collections have expanded from the projects of individual scholars or libraries; materials are now linked together in increasingly large and complex digital repositories, such as the California Digital Library and the Digital Public Library of America. Regents Lecturer Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, was invited to campus to discuss issues of collection, digitization, the web, libraries, and memory.

The Internet Archive, a non-profit dedicated to providing free public access to texts, audio, moving images, software, and archived web pages, has worked with many scholarly institutions and undertaken its own digitization and digital preservation projects. The Internet Archive’s many projects have included digitizing books, mirroring the collections of the Smithsonian, archiving the web with the Wayback Machine, archiving political TV ads, and making old software games playable via browser emulators.

Photo: Kahle visits the Bancroft printing press room

Kahle joined students, faculty, and staff from the Berkeley Center for New Media and Digital Humanities at Berkeley for a visit to the archives. At the Bancroft Library, Todd Hickey, Professor in Classics and Director of the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri , and DH Fellow Michael Zellmann-Rohrer, PhD candidate in Classics, exposed the challenges of preserving and interpreting papyri. As Les Ferriss, instructor of the Bancroft’s “The Hand-Printed Book in Its Historical Context” class, demonstrated the workings of a 19th century printing-press, the group considered the material aspects of books and what might be lost in a digital representation. Rebecca Levitan, a PhD student in History of Art, led the group to the busy hallway in Dwinelle Hall where casts of the Parthenon frieze and other works of classic Greek sculpture were on display. Levitan discussed her hopes to capture these works with 3D scanning and create digital replicas that restore the vibrant color and various wax and metal embellishments to the now-austere white marble sculpture. At the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, Curator Francesco Spagnolo examined the representation of material culture in both physical and digital exhibits and capturing sound files for ritual objects.

Later in the week, Kahle, Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer, and the campus community gathered for a conversation on the future of libraries. Together, the attendees considered issues of digitization, copyright, and fair use. Kahle noted that overly strict copyright restrictions mean that “every year that goes by, one more person graduates without having had access to everything we have to offer." Increasingly, researchers are also asking for access to collections at scale and associated tools for data mining. Librarians at both UC Berkeley and the Internet Archive continue to grapple with how to provide meaningful, useful access to collections.

Photo: Visiting the Magnes CollectionView tweets and photos from Brewster Kahle’s visit, curated by the Berkeley Center for New Media:


(1) Brewster Kahle and Jeffrey MacKie-Mason in conversation | CC BY-SA Berkeley Center for New Media (2) A visit to the Bancroft Library Press Room (3) Rebecca Levitan discusses the Parthenon frieze casts in Dwinelle Hall (4) Francesco Spagnolo discusses ritual objects in the Magnes’ collections