Tuesday, September 13, 2016



A long time goal to digitize the ARCE conservation archive and make its content available on-line has taken a giant leap forward with the signing of an agreement between the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and ARCE. The agreement provides for hosting the archive as part of UCLA's International Digitizing Ephemera Project (IDEP), a component of the UCLA Digital Library. Sponsored by the Arcadia Fund, the IDEP focuses on electronically publishing collections of ephemeral materials from around the world that may be used for instruction and research and are of interest to scholars and students

Andreas Kostopoulos, ARCE Project Archives Assistant.

Finding a digital 'home' for ARCE's conservation archive has been a lengthy quest that began in earnest in 2014 following a period of post-Uprising instability when the immediate environs of ARCE's office were intermittently transformed into the frontline of confrontations between the police and protestors. Mindful that a vast portion of the archival content would be unsuitable for conventional publication in its raw form, ARCE Associate Director for Conservation, Michael Jones worked closely with former colleagues Rachel Mauldin, then-ARCE Archivist / US Associate Director, and Dina Aboul Saad then-Director of Development, to identify partnerships that would result in providing public access to ARCE's archive. It was during this quest that Dr. Willeke Wendrich, UCLA Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures expressed interest in ARCE's objectives and recognized a common fit between the institutions' interests and needs. Dr. Wendrich holds dual directorships for the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities.  

Following up on UCLA's expression of interest to host ARCE's collection Mauldin and Aboul Saad visited the UCLA Library in June 2015. Meeting with Dr. Wendrich, Todd Grappone, Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Information Technology, UCLA Library and Annelie Rugg, Director Humanities CIO, UCLA Center for Digital Humanities, the ARCE staff presented an organizational overview and outline of the archive's material as well as the status of ARCE's in-house and proposed digitizing efforts. Grappone concurred that ARCE's material was a good fit for their project fitting well into UCLA's aim to host unique archives that relate to areas of study for the university and those with a broad international scope.

Janie Abdul Aziz describes disturbances on the street below the office housing the archive in 2013 underlining one of the reasons behind digitizing and preserving the archive.

Under the agreement UCLA will support the digitization, web-design, and on-line publication of ARCE's conservation archive as well as the procurement of equipment and training in the digitization process. It was estimated that the process could take up to two years. An agreement was signed in September 2015 and ARCE joined the IDEP as one of seven partner organizations worldwide.[1]

Back in Cairo Andreas Kostopoulos, ARCE Project Archives Assistant, Janie Abdul Aziz, ARCE Grant Administrator and Michael Jones worked with UCLA Library staff, T-Kay Sangwand and Andy Rutkowski on the workflow, metadata, and process of transferring already digitized material to UCLA.

Large, small and informal meetings during the UCLA workshop enabled ARCE staff to move forward with the digitization project upon return to Cairo.

It was recommended that during ARCE's 2017 Annual Meeting in Kansas City a paper be submitted to present the collaborative project to conference participants, as well as a small group discussion forum be organized for interested scholars and potential users of the archive, to ask questions and indentify search priorities (metadata definitions).  In July 2016, UCLA organized a partners' meeting in Los Angeles to enable its worldwide IDEP partners to meet the UCLA Digital Library team and discuss both broad and specific project goals, framework and objectives, and initiate training on digitizing, archives storage and preservation, and metadata. The UCLA team included UCLA Library Administration, the Digital Library Program staff, faculty members, and subject and preservation specialists. Abdul Aziz and Kostopoulos participated in the weeklong workshop on behalf of ARCE. During meetings the UCLA and ARCE teams discussed the broad terms of the collaborative agreement as well as short and long-term goals. Broadly, it was agreed that ARCE's project archive would be accessible online to scholars and the general public. Its use would be subject to a Creative Commons License. With Arcadia Fund support for the IDEP currently scheduled to end in December 2017, it seemed unrealistic to assume the entire archive could be digitized and uploaded in the short time remaining. Nonetheless short-term goals include finalizing metadata creation, website development and digitization of the materials for at least five projects. The first milestone toward achieving these goals will be uploading the Luxor Temple Roman Wall Paintings to the IDEP website by the end of 2016. It was further agreed that, in the long term, ARCE would acquire the practical experience and equipment required to continue digitizing and adding material to the UCLA digital archive over time.

[1] National Library of Armenia, Bibioteca Nacional Jose Marti, Cinemeteca de Cuba, Instituto de Historia de Cuba, American University of Iraq Sulaimani, and Freedom Park (South Africa).