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Persis Berlekamp Discusses Significance of Digitized Islamic Art

50306851After receiving a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland is digitizing its entire collection of Qurans and other pieces of Islamic art.  The purpose of this project is to grant the public unprecedented levels of access, which has important implications for future scholarship.

Persis Berlekamp, professor of art history, discussed with The Baltimore Sun the importance of placing this significant collection in the public realm.

From the article:

Persis Berlekamp, an art historian at the University of Chicago, says the still-nascent movement has transformed the field. As recently as the early 2000s, when she was pursuing her doctorate at Harvard, research could be a hit-or-miss affair, involving expensive and time-consuming travel that might not yield useful results.

“In many collections it was not possible even to find a published catalog of the selection,” Berlekamp says. “So I would have to, you know, from footnotes or someone else’s article or just some rumor, I would happen to know that there were these three manuscripts. And then I would get there and I would be going through a card catalog for two weeks trying to figure out what the heck was there before I even could submit a list of what I wanted to see.”

Now, she says, “the kinds of papers that my students can write in graduate school is totally revolutionized. The topics that are available for them to write a seminar paper which may lead them to a Ph.D. thesis is exploded because they can look at a manuscript that’s digitized that they would never have access to until they knew about it and then they applied for a grant and then a year later they got there.”

To read more about this exciting project in The Baltimore Sun, please click here.

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