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MultilingualWAfricanDigitalLibrary | ... in the spirit of service


(from the list of my contributions to the Africa_web_content_owner (AWCO) list; source: AWCO archives)

Multilingual W. African digital library
Oct 17, 2000

The appended announcement concerning the "Multi-Lingual Digital Library for West African Sources" may be of interest.

Don Osborn osborndo@...
bisharat@... www.kabissa.org/bisharat

From: Tim Carmichael <mrtim@...>
Reply-To: H-NET List for African History and Culture <H-AFRICA@...>
To: H-AFRICA@...
Subject: New West-African Digital Library Project
Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 14:06:00 -0400

Date: 2 Oct 2000
From: H-NET Announcements Editor <announce@mail.h-net.msu.edu>

The National Science Foundation has awarded its first-ever Collaborative International Digital Library Project with Africa to Michigan State University

2 October 2000

For More Information:


Prof. Mark Kornbluh
Tel. (517) 355-9300
Email: mark@...

Prof. David Robinson
Tel. (517) 353-8898
Email: robindav@...

Prof. David Wiley
Tel. (517) 353-1700
Email: Wiley@...

East Lansing, MI--- A new project at Michigan State University (MSU) with research teams at the Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire (IFAN) and the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar, Senegal will help to overcome the "digital divide" between the wealthier nations and Africa. As information technologies transform education and communications around the globe, the digital divide is enlarging the information and education gap between those countries with significant resources and those without. Thanks to a path-breaking $380,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, research teams will work to narrow this gap by building a "Multi-Lingual Digital Library for West African Sources."

Over the next three years, the "Multi-Lingual Digital Library for West African Sources" will develop a multi-media digital library of West African sources in multiple languages that includes sound, text and image content from multiple countries. These materials will be made freely accessible over the Internet in the United States, West Africa, and throughout the world - many of them for the first time. For scholars and students conducting research and teaching about West Africa as well as teachers and students of Africa and African languages in both the United States and West Africa, the potential impact of this project is tremendous.

"One of the most exciting aspects of this project is that it will allow the partners to explore some of the most pressing challenges facing academic researchers - challenges of intellectual property, digitization and delivery --in a multi-lingual, multicultural context," said Professor Mark Kornbluh, Director of MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online at MSU and Executive Director of H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences OnLine. "The enormous inequality in the flow of global electronic information raises particular challenges to designing the structure of any international digital library that involves African and American partners. This project will address these concerns head-on. Our goal is to develop and initiate a system for the creation of digital collections of scholarly materials that can dramatically increase the flow of information from, to, and throughout Africa."

David Wiley, Director of the MSU African Studies Center and Professor of Sociology, commented, "The huge expense of maintaining traditional libraries and archives - as well as the unstable political climates and the pressing social and economic needs of many West African countries - have significantly limited Africans' access to materials documenting their own history. Many print materials, as well as photographs and historical manuscripts, in West African research libraries and collection are rapidly deteriorating. At the same time, a wealth of oral histories and other documents have been collected by researchers around the globe that remain preserved in collections outside of Africa, making them inaccessible to most students and scholars in Africa. By digitizing these manuscripts, journals, photographs, and oral histories, the "Multi-Lingual Digital Library for West African Sources" will both preserve these valuable materials and repatriate these research and cultural materials to their countries of origin while also increasing their access to researchers around the globe."

David Robinson, Professor of History and African Studies at MSU, noted that this "Multi-lingual Digital Library for West African Sources" also will provide a valuable model for creating and distributing a diverse array of materials in technologically poor areas. "The focus of this project on West Africa poses special challenges in dealing with the low level of connectivity and the limited training of collaborators to create the digital library system and make it accessible to potential users in the scholarly and educational communities," he said. "At the same time, West African universities, scholars, and teachers all recognize the unparalleled potential of the Internet to provide both access to resources for teaching and research and an avenue for scholarly publication. This project aims to develop models for multinational collaboration and strategies for overcoming connectivity inadequacies that allow for future capacity building."

The past several years have seen an explosion of efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. State Department, and others to increase Africa's connection to the Internet. By providing economic and institutional support, this project links the strength of existing MSU scholarly collaborations in Africa and the United States to create digital collections of scholarly materials. These will dramatically increase the flow of information to, from, and throughout Africa.

To a great extent, the real strength of this collaboration rests on the expertise of its partners. IFAN, the key partner institution in Senegal, is arguably the most important research institute in West Africa. WARC, also based in Senegal but serving all of West Africa, draws a wealth of researchers and students from across Africa and around the globe each year. MSU's African Studies Center has been a premier Title VI National Resource Center for decades with a long, strong record of service to African students, faculty, and institutions. The African Studies Center and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online, in partnership with H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences OnLine, have provided ongoing training, technical support, and a computer laboratory and server system over the past several years.

The partners hope that this pilot project will demonstrate the tremendous potential of the Internet in Africa for research, teaching, and outreach as well as a model for student and scholarly collaboration across ethnic and national boundaries. We anticipate that MSU will build on its considerable reputation in African Studies to take a leadership position in the digitization of African Sources and make them available to the broadest range of interested persons, and that this project will continue well beyond the expiration of the current NSF grant.

This announcement has been posted by H-ANNOUNCE, a service of H-Net, Michigan State University.

For an archive of announcements and information about how to post, visit: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/announce

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