Virtual Trinity Library – A Major Digitisation Initiative of the Library of Trinity College is Launched
Posted on: 02 March 2021
Virtual Trinity Library, an ambitious digitisation initiative of the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most valued collections, was launched this week. It will conserve, catalogue, curate, digitise and research these unique collections of national importance, making them accessible to a global audience, from schoolchildren to scholars.
Using the most advanced technology the Library’s new Digital Collections platform will showcase the breadth of these collections, ranging from precious manuscripts to scientific papers.
The Library of Trinity College Dublin is joining other world libraries that are collectively enabling access to patrimony and cultural heritage.
An ‘In Conversation’ with President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Vartan Gregorian with the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton, on the occasion of the launch of Virtual Trinity Library.
Virtual Trinity Library is opening up the collections of the largest library in Ireland catalysing research and safeguarding the iconic treasures of the Library for generations to come. This is critical for the survival of our historic collections built up over more than 400 years. Virtual Trinity Library is a strategic flagship project, forming part of the University’s philanthropic campaign, Inspiring Generations.
Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said:
Virtual Trinity Library is part of an international landscape of organisations that are enabling virtual access to knowledge and cultural heritage. We are joining universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, as well as national libraries, museums, archives and galleries which have similar initiatives to share national memory, enrich society and facilitate international links between collections and people.
Collections-conservation, cataloguing, curation & digitisation
The Virtual Trinity Library programme is centred on the Library of Trinity College Dublin’s most prized collections across nine categories:
- Europe’s Diverse Heritage: from Ussher’s Library to the Fagel Library
- Ireland’s Medieval History: Medieval Manuscripts
- Dublin for Children’s Literature: Trinity’s Collections of Children’s Literature
- Ireland’s Religious and Political Evolution: Religious, Legal, Political and Military Collections
- Ireland’s Experiments and Great Discoveries: Mathematical, Scientific and Map Collections
- Global Culture: Papyrus and Objects
- Ireland’s Literary Heritage: Literary Archives
- Trinity’s Scholarly Contribution to the World: Trinity Icons
- Ireland’s Creative Legacy: Performance, Creative Arts and Architecture Archives
Trinity academics will lead research in each of the themes, reflecting the University’s broad spectrum of research and ranging over Humanities and Science collections.
All of the digitised collections will be accessible online and will be preserved for the long-term in the Library’s Digital Collections Repository.
A centrepiece of the Virtual Trinity Library will be the conservation and digitisation of Trinity’s collection of medieval manuscripts, with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The first tranche will include the digitisation of the precious 12th-century New Testament and Psalter from Winchcombe Abbey in England as well as the life of St Alban written and decorated by the great 13th-century English historian and artist Matthew Paris.
Other projects already underway include the cataloguing, conservation and digitisation of the Michael Davitt Papers; the Cuala Press Print Collection; a collection of Denis Parsons Burkitt papers; and the cataloguing of the Fagel Library’s 20,000 volumes dating from 1460 to 1799, assembled by several generations of the Fagel family in the Netherlands. The Fagel project is a major collaboration between the Library of Trinity College Dublin and the National Library of the Netherlands, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB).
Virtual Trinity Library is funded through philanthropic support under the ‘Inspiring Generations’ Campaign.
The Library’s newly launched Digital Collections platform, which builds on the success of its existing digital collections, will enable the Virtual Trinity Library programme.
The new Digital Collections platform will use advanced technology and innovation. It will include Transkribus, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered text recognition platform which allows the automated transcription of handwriting.
It will also use a range of open source software, including IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework) specially developed by universities such as Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Princeton as well as national libraries, museums and archives. IIIF combines rich metadata with the ability to deep zoom into images to see a wealth of detail. It enables much easier sharing, annotation and manipulation of the Library’s digital collections across institutional and national boundaries.
By digitising these unique collections and contributing to the development of open source technology Virtual Trinity Library will be part of a rich ecosystem of research and learning. It will connect researchers to previously inaccessible materials. It will offer researchers exciting new possibilities for joint analysis, documentation and discussion of primary materials. it will also allow for research outputs to be published and shared with colleagues, moreover, primary sources will be open and accessible to all.
The Virtual Trinity Library programme places the Library of Trinity College in a virtual network with the other great libraries that are collectively enabling access to patrimony and cultural heritage.
On the occasion of the launch of the Virtual Trinity Library, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Vartan Gregorian was guest of honour and participated ‘In Conversation’ with the Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton where they discussed Creating a Virtual World Library for our Cultural Heritage. For further details see the Virtual Trinity Library website.
Virtual Trinity Library will scale digitisation across nine key collections:
- to conserve and protect the Library’s most precious items
- to make collections easily accessible to a global audience of researchers
- to use new technologies to greatly expand research potential
- to place the Library of Trinity College in a virtual network with the other great libraries
Virtual Trinity Library is complementary to the Old Library Redevelopment Project, which addresses the physical rejuvenation of the Old Library.