July 15th, 2015
Juan Cobo Betancourt
We are a non-profit foundation, registered and constituted in the Republic of Colombia. Our aim is to help to preserve and promote Colombia’s manuscripts and early printed books, taking advantage of new technologies. We are currently focusing on the the digitization of the documentation of archives and libraries around the country, and the construction of a digital archive and digital library through which we will make this material available to everyone, everywhere in the world, and always for free.
At the same time, we want to help other academic institutions and researchers in Colombia take advantage of new technologies in their work, and even to set up and develop their own digital humanities projects, by sharing our digital resources and expertise with them.
Our foundation was set up by a group of friends — academics, administrators, programmers, and engineers — who wanted to use new technologies do something about preserving Colombia’s manuscripts and early printed books for future generations, and to share it with the world.
Projects to digitize historical documents are often very expensive, because they are either carried out by private businesses specializing in digitization which have to make a profit, or by the host institutions themselves, which have to invest in expensive scanning equipment that can cost thousands of pounds. As a result, those wanting to access this documentation either have to pay fees or subscriptions to the private companies that carried out the digitization, or the archives and libraries themselves have to spend a great deal of money subsidizing digitization. At institutions with little funding or few resources, the work may never be carried out at all. We believe this is unfair, and we wanted to do something about it.
We set up Neogranadina and The Colombian Archives Initiative, its UK-based sister foundation, to ensure that the digitization of historical manuscripts and early printed books held in private archives and libraries around Colombia was not out of their reach or that of their users; that a lack of money, expertise, and technology did not prevent this valuable work from being done. Moreover, we want to prevent the digitization of this material in Colombia from following the same course it has in as many other parts of the world, where such projects have been carried out by private businesses seeking to make a profit.
As a result of the efforts of all our volunteers, at Neogranadina we have the technology to do things differently. Based on open-source technologies, we are able to make our own high quality scanners at a fraction of the cost of equivalent commercial models. They are designed specifically to digitize manuscripts and early printed books, with their specific conservation needs in mind. And they have been built to be durable and easy to install, so that they can be transported and deployed around Colombia. This means that we can carry out digitization projects without generating any costs for host institutions, and share the resulting images with everyone for free. Indeed, we run our operations entirely on donations from our supporters and volunteers.
With the help of key international partners, we are using the latest technology available to create our digital archive and digital library, the Archivo Histórico Digital de los Colombianos and Biblioteca Histórica Neogranadina, where we will publish the documents we digitize.
We are just getting started, and there is a lot to do. On this website (which is still under construction) you will be able to find more information about our foundation and our projects, and to follow our progress on this blog. And, if you like, you can also contact us to get involved.
The Colombian Archives Initiative