News Briefs, December 2005
Bruce Craig, December 2005
The Smithsonian Institution has accepted a $45 million donation from the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The unrestricted gift will benefit the Smithsonian's American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. As a consequence of this donation the Reynolds Foundation is now the second-largest private-sector benefactor (a total of $75 million) of the Smithsonian in the last dozen years. The largest individual donor is businessman Kenneth E. Behring, who gave $80 million to the National Museum of American History and $20 million to the National Museum of Natural History a few years back.
The Reynolds money will be used to restore the Old Patent Office Building (which houses both museums) to its 19th-century appearance. The gift will also provide funding for public exhibitions. The complex of buildings—including a new conservation center, a 346-seat auditorium, and a restored courtyard—will collectively be known as the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lawrence M. Small stated, "Our progress on this building has taken a great leap forward with this gift." Some $20 million remains to be raised to complete the $250-million project, of which $166 million to date has been appropriated to the Smithsonian by Congress.
Over the last couple of months this publication has reported on the ongoing controversy over Google's effort to scan millions of library books so they can be viewed on the Internet. On October 18 the Association of American Publishers and several of its members filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against the company. The suit follows on the heels of a class action lawsuit brought by the 8,000-member Authors Guild which also alleges that Google's library project violates copyright law.
The publishers allege that the search engine's project—called Google Print—is infringing copyright to "further its own commercial purposes." Google denounced the lawsuit as "shortsighted" and countered that the company's project falls under the copyright law's fair-use provision. The matter will now be settled in court.
Meanwhile, Yahoo! Inc. has teamed up with the libraries at the University of California and the University of Toronto, and several archival and technology companies, to advance a new project to make volumes of books easily accessible online. Called the "Open Content Alliance," participating libraries in this project can have their books scanned by the Internet Archive for 10 cents a page, which, project leaders state, is well below the standard price for digital scanning.
Other participants in the Open Content Alliance include Adobe, the National Archives of England, O'Reilly Media, the European Archive, and the Hewlett-Packard Labs. The project is optimistic that additional libraries and partners can be attracted, as well as additional financial support.
Project organizers have stressed that under no circumstance will any copyrighted material be scanned into the digital library without having secured explicit permission from the copyright holders. In this way, the project hopes to avoid the controversy that surrounded Google's attempts to scan entire libraries, including books still under copyright protection.
To help jump-start the project, Yahoo! will pay for the scanning of an 18,000-volume collection of American literature housed at the University of California. Additionally, Yahoo! is working to develop new technologies for the search function in order to gain more efficient access to the content of the books. Yahoo! has made it clear that it does not expect to see a profit from this project; however, it remains committed to this "philanthropic effort" to put more literary content on the Internet. Adobe and the Hewlett-Packard labs are assisting in the development of the software and providing additional services to the project.
The University of California system expects the cost of scanning the first couple of collections to be approximately $500,000. The University of Toronto so far has scanned about 2,000 books for the collection and is expected to have 1,000 of them made available through a section of the Internet Archive. In the coming months, the first of the scanned books will become available for viewing online at www.opencontentalliance.org, as well as through www.yahoo.com. More books will be added as they become available.
The London School of Economics (LSE) has recently launched a new web resource for historians in the 21st century. The site, called "Archives Made Easy," is an online guide to archives around the world.
The web site serves the global research community by providing transparency of the costs and processes involved in an archive visit, essentially the kind of information researchers need to know beforehand in order to avoid costly mistakes and delays. Content of this site has come from the doctorate students of LSE's International History department and their colleagues at various universities worldwide.
Researchers of all levels are welcome to submit a review on any archive, or update an existing review. This new web site can be viewed online at http://www.archivesmadeeasy.org.
—Bruce Craig is director of the National Coalition for History. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.