High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Google Books Digitises Antwerp Collection
© Ans Brys
© Ans Brys © Ans Brys

Google Books Digitises Antwerp Collection

The City of Antwerp and Google signed an agreement to digitise a large portion of the collections of the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library and the Plantin-Moretus Museum. This entails more than 100,000 works from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. It is expected that the last book will be scanned within three years.

An Renard, director of the Heritage Library: ‘The collection of the Heritage Library is composed of a total of roughly 1.5 million volumes, and is consulted daily in our reading hall by many scientists, students and enthusiasts. The fact that Google will digitise around 85,000 works will greatly increase the findability of our collection and encourage more to consult it. The whole world will quite literally gain access. Of the 85,000 selected books in the Heritage Library, approximately 40,000 were printed abroad: many thousands of books come from France, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom. It not only illustrates the national but also the international dimension of our collection.’.

About 22,500 works have been selected for digitisation from the Plantin-Moretus Museum collection. The Plantin-Moretus Museum is the home and printing-publishing house of the Plantin-Moretus printing family. The museum is listed on the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and houses an exceptional art collection, including portraits by Rubens and an ancient print shop. More than 25,000 old prints are kept in the historical libraries and the new depots.

Director Iris Kockelbergh of the Plantin-Moretus Museum: ‘Our venerable library contains not only the most complete collection of Plantin and Moretus prints in the world, but also many rare old European prints. Our collection is therefore invaluable for scientific research. The digitisation will give this research a phenomenal boost. The scanned books will be made full-text searchable: Researchers can search them easily, quickly and specifically. Google will scan both old and modern prints until 1894. Doing so, we are realizing a major catch-up in the digitisation of our collection, one of our major policy objectives.’

After the Royal Library of the Netherlands and the Ghent University Library, Antwerp is the third partner in the Low Countries with which Google collaborates. In September, the first five thousand selected books will be transported to Google's European digitisation centre in batches and at regular intervals by a secure transport. After the scanning work is complete, Google immediately places the digital copies online. The Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library and the Plantin-Moretus Museum will also receive a digital copy which will be incorporated into their own catalogue. With thousands of books leaving Antwerp and coming back, it is expected that the last book will be scanned within three years.

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