In line with the UNESCO goal to preserve the national history of the people, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina has accomplished several endeavors to build a Digital Library of the Modern History of Egypt, of which the digitized “Description De l’Egypte” constitutes an important component. Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s Digital Lab is the milestone for building Egypt’s capacity through expanding its digital content. By October 2004, the Bibliotheca had successfully upgraded its lab’s human and technological resources to be considered one of the best digitizing centers in the region.
In October 2004, the Digitization of Description de l’Egypte project’s first stage was completed and the application was provided on DVD in high resolution with French and English interfaces. BA is still working on the second phase to make the collection’s website accessible to all users.
Development of a specialized virtual browser and other tools necessary to digitize this ancient collection has led to a broader preservation partnership resulting in digitizing L’Institute D’Egypte’s entire library content.
In spite of its economic problems, Egypt has taken broad steps in documenting and preserving human knowledge. This is because pursuing sustainable development is based on national solidarity which is the outcome of local identity derived from national heritage.
Raising national awareness through learning from history is essential for maintaining local and regional peace. Comparing between the transitional period Egypt experienced during and after Napoleon’s invasion in the late 19th century is similar to the threats facing developing countries nowadays. This is because opening the closed preserved Egyptian culture on the modern world of Bonaparte in the late 19th century was very much similar to present globalization and digital era of the 21st century. Hence it is obvious that nations could benefit from inter-cultural exposure without loosing their identity as long as they are well educated to transmit developmental instruments only.
The impact of the project is measured by the number of DVDs sold at our bookshop, comments received and demand on the DVD from local and international organizations. Based on the increasing demand, the BA has accelerated its work to publish the collection on the Web.
Description de l'Egypte was the outcome of the collaboration of over 150 scholars and scientists accompanying Napoleon in 1798, as well as some 2,000 artists and technicians. Through 20 years, they examined every aspect of contemporary and ancient Egyptian civilization, producing 20 volumes of text and plates of unmatched accuracy and detail.
The entire collection was scanned, cataloged, indexed and digitally restored. A tool was developed to publish texts in the standard Extended Markup Language format through which texts may be browsed by a virtual browser or touch screen giving the effect of actually turning the pages and preserving the ancient feel and look of the original volumes. The relation between the text and images was also established and rendered in a searchable form. It is now possible to find the plates associated with a search item, along with their descriptive text, in addition to occurrences of the search item within text volumes.
The project’s first stage was completed where the application was provided on DVD in high resolution with French and English interfaces. The second phase will create a website for the collection. Research will also take place in order to OCR the text volumes, resolving issues pertaining to old languages and multi-languages.