Monday, March 27, 2006
Bibliotheca Alexandrina is Egypt's newest library in Alexandria with a very large objective and several projects in progress. The library's objective, as presented on their web site, states:
The unique role of the Library of Alexandria, as that of a great Egyptian Library with international dimensions, will focus on four main aspects, that seek to recapture the spirit of the original ancient Library of Alexandria.
The library aspires to be "(1) The world's window on Egypt, (2) Egypt's window on the world, (3) A leading institution of the digital age; and, above all, (4) A center for learning, tolerance, dialogue, and understanding."
Bibliotheca Alexandrina is well on it's way to fulfilling one aspiration of being a leading institution of the digital age, as they have many ambitious projects in the works or affiliated with.
Under the tab at the top of the homepage is a link to their Calligraphy Center. The Calligraphy Center is one of the five research centers affiliated to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Its aim is "to study inscriptions, calligraphies and writings in the world throughout the ages, from the pre-dynastic period up to the digital age." The Calligraphy Center feels "calligraphy and writing are part of the essential means to human knowledge and evolution of civilizations."
One of the projects the center is currently working on is the digital archiving of Rosetta inscriptions. Rosetta is a city known for its national history and unique decorative and architectural heritage, as well as, Islamic architecture. The project involves recording, transcribing and translating the inscriptions on all the Islamic monuments. This is the first attempt to have a digital library of Islamic inscriptions, writings and calligraphies which makes it very unique. The inscriptions will be electronically archived in their original form, together with their translation in both Arabic and English. The database field will include such things as monument number, name, date, location and condition of inscription. The project will target scientists and researchers (i.e. Historians, Art Historians, Epigraphers, Philologists, etc), school and university students, and the general public.
Another project the Library of Alexandria is involved with is CULTNAT - The Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (http://www.cultnat.org). CULNAT is currently the Cairo headquarters of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina to which it is linked electronically; it is also affiliated to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The center aims at "at using the latest technological innovations to document Egypt's cultural heritage with both its aspects: tangible and intangible, as well as Egypt's natural heritage which includes information about the natural areas and their biological components."
As with the Alexandria Library, most of the projects on this web site are still under construction. One particular ambitious project that looks exciting is the archaeological map of Egypt. The program "is a multidimensional program aiming to employing the latest information technology to produce a powerful documentation and management tool for the Egyptian archaeological sites that are spread all over the country."
The program is split in to three interactive levels: First, second and third. The first level is the national one, showing a basic map with all archaeological sites and allowing the user to zoom into different regions and/or select sites according to certain criteria such as the dating of the site, its type, … etc.
The second level is a detailed map displaying the site and its components as well as the basic data about each monument, its dating, the owner and his titles, the type and the category of its structure, a brief description of the architectural elements and selected bibliography on the site.
On the third level a precise and detailed description of the chosen monument is presented and displayed. The description goes on to describe level three saying "a detailed plan of the monument is exhibited and is occasionally linked to a 3-D model of the architectural structure, demonstrating its elements and allowing the possibility of a virtual visit."
I thought the Bibliotheca Alexandrina was an ambitious and exciting web site. While I was disappointed many of their projects were still under construction (as well, as some of the web pages), I look forward to returning to this web site when they are completed.