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The Yemen Manuscript Digitization Initiative

David Hollenberg
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مبادرة رقمنة المخطوطات اليمنية [ar]

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1The Yemen Manuscript Digitization Initiative ( is a collective of leading scholars of classical Islam, Middle Eastern history, and Arabic Literature from North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Led by its director David Hollenberg (University of Oregon), the group aims to preserve the Arabic manuscripts in the private libraries of Yemen. In September, 2010, YMDI secured an Enriching Digital Collections Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). The grant is administered by Princeton University Library (PI David Magier) and Free University, Berlin (PI Sabine Schmidtke).

2The goal of the NEH/DFG grant is to create an infrastructure through which manuscripts in private libraries in Yemen can be digitally preserved and made widely available through Princeton University’s Digital Library. During the grant’s 28 month period, three private libraries in the capital city of an‘ā’, a total of 236 manuscripts, will be digitized and cataloged. After catalog records are finalized at Princeton University Library, these digitized texts will be conjoined with Yemeni manuscripts held by Princeton University Library and the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin. The virtual manuscripts will be hosted by Princeton University Library, discoverable through OCLC/Worldcat, and freely available on the World Wide Web. As of November 20, 2012, 51 manuscripts have been placed online and can be viewed at​collections/​pudl0079.

3The first part of the grant took place last December 6th-17th when technicians from the Imam Zayd ibn Ali Cultural Foundation (IZBACF) librarians were trained by librarians from Princeton University Library using Yemeni manuscripts at the Staatbiblithek, Berlin. In the first workshop, senior technicians AbdulRahman al-Neamy and Abdullah al-Wajih were trained on the complex archive-quality photographic apparatus, techniques for establishing proper lighting, focus and troubleshooting, and the Capture One and Photoshop software to capture, refine, and adjust images. In the second workshop, the technicians learned of cataloging principles and standards. Topics covered included general cataloging principles and FRBR user tasks, and how both of those elements relate to description and access as provided in AACR2. Also outlined were various cataloging standards which will be used for this project: AACR2, RDA, AMREMM, the NAF, MARC, MODS, METS and the ALA/LC Romanization table for Arabic. The basics of authority control were also covered. The group reviewed and discussed a pre-prepared bilingual list of terminology to ensure mutual understanding of technical cataloging and manuscript terms.

Fig. 1: Ahmed Ish...Fig. 1: Ahmed Ishaq with manuscripts

Fig. 1: Ahmed Ishaq with manuscripts

Fig. 2: Abdurahma...Fig. 2: Abdurahman al-Neamy in Berlin workshop

Fig. 2: Abdurahman al-Neamy in Berlin workshop

4Since January, 2011, under intensely challenging conditions including severely restricted access to electricity, fuel, and at times even drinking water, the IZBACF team has, astonishingly, digitized and produced detailed metadata for over 60 codices. YMDI extends special thanks to our colleagues in an‘ā’, the director of The Imam Zayd bin Ali Cultural Foundation, Ahmed Ishaq, the project’s two chief digitization technicians, Abdulrahman al-Neamy and Abdullah al-Wajih, and the manuscript preservation team, Abdulsalam Alwajih, Mohammad Abo Talib, Oday Jahhaf, Ahmed Alkohlani, Abbas Abdulsalam Alwajih, Sharaf Jahhaf, and Ali Alashwal. We are extremely grateful for their heroic efforts. (University of Oregon / 2011, November, 20)

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Titre Fig. 1: Ahmed Ishaq with manuscripts
Fichier image/jpeg, 12k
Titre Fig. 2: Abdurahman al-Neamy in Berlin workshop
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David Hollenberg, « The Yemen Manuscript Digitization Initiative »Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen [En ligne], 13 | 2012, mis en ligne le 27 novembre 2013, consulté le 24 septembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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David Hollenberg

Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Religious Literature
Director, Arabic Language and Literature
Director, The Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative
University of Oregon

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