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[SAO/NASA ADS]   ADS Historical Literature Project


The ADS is working with the John G. Wolbach Library at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to digitize microfilms from selected historical publications in astronomy, including observatory reports, bulletins and annals. A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to Harvard University was awarded for the preservation microfilming of rare and important publications in astronomy. Thanks to this program, the Wolbach Library has been able to create preservation copies of its most important historical material. Over 400 serials and 600 books were microfilmed on 1,400 reels for a total of 1,560,00 individual images. Taking advantage of its close ties with the Library, the ADS project has been able to digitize a limited portion of these microfilms over the last 8 years and integrate them into its fulltext archive and bibliographic databases. From 2000 to date, a total of more than 500,000 scanned pages of observatory serials have been added to the ADS archive. Our access logs show that this material is being accessed and downloaded at a steady pace both from institutional computers and from the general public. During 2006 the ADS website recorded the download of over 590,000 scanned pages from this collection.

We are currently working on incorporating an additional 200,000 scanned pages during the first part of 2009. These pages, which eventually become accessible from an interface similar to the ADS article service, represent the sequence of images taken during the microfilming process, and include all front- and back-matter. As a result, the page numbers of all the scanned images are unknown. In addition, in most cases we have no bibliographic records for the contents of these publications (i.e. the list of articles or reports appearing in them). Without this metadata, the collection of full-text scans is of limited use since it's impossible to browse these publications by page number or use the ADS search engine to locate specific bibliographic items in them.

We have developed a a software tool to facilitate the entry of this type of metadata by users and librarians willing to work with us to improve access to this valuable collection. All you will need to get involved is a web browser and an internet connection, and data entry can be done incrementally over a period of time. Funding for this project was provided in part by the Atherton Seidell Fund of the Smithsonian Institution.

Please feel free to take a look at the interface and let us know what you think!

A selected portion of the scanned microfilms is currently available through a page-by-page viewing interface.