Digital Scholarship in Brazil: an expanding field
Brazil has been recently in the spotlight for hosting the 2016 Olympics – what few people know is that it is also making good progress in promoting digital scholarship activities. At the end of July, just before the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, I was invited to participate in two different conferences in the country where I had the opportunity to share with Brazilian colleagues the work we have been doing at the BL in promoting wider access and re-use of our digital collections.
My first stop in Brazil was São Paulo, where I delivered the keynote speech at the 3rd International Congress on Archives, Libraries and Museums: Preserve for Future Generations. The conference raised interesting points about preservation and access to digital content, especially from a more inter-institutional perspective. Although dealing with similar collections items, cultural heritage organizations in Brazil are still struggling to develop interoperable systems able to retrieve and present information in a seamless way to their users. In my talk I stressed, among other things, the urgent need for Brazilian institutions to start archiving Web pages published in the country’s domain as a delay in implementing a Web Archiving programme oin Brazil will lead to an irreparable loss of important information for future generations. At the moment, according to registros.br, there are almost 4 million Web sites registered in the .br domain – all the information published in these pages will disappear permantely if Brazilian institutions don’t start archiving them. While in São Paulo I visited the impressive Biblioteca Mário de Andrade, the largest library in the city that provides 24 hour service to its users. I was amazed to walk through the closed stacks of the building containing more than 200,000 titles and see the huge variety of titles available in digital format to its users.
On Friday, 22nd July, a week before the official opening of the Olympic games, I went to Rio de Janeiro where I delivered the closing speech for the Seminar on Technology and Culture at the prestigious Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa (FCRB). It was a great pleasure to be back at the FCRB as a guest speaker for the launch of its new online catalogue, Rubi, which offers a more interactive and faster access to the the institution’s rich digital collections.
During my trip I had the opportunity to talk to colleagues working in libraries, archives and museums who are eager to follow the examples adopted by the BL in their institutions. Colleagues were particularly interested in learning more about our successful Endangered Archives Programme (EAP), which has been offering invaluable support to archives around the world enabling them to preserve, digitise and disseminate their collections. So far the programme has supported 7 projects in Brazil and our plan is to increase this number by receiving more applications from Latin America. The British Library (in association with the Chevening programme) is offering a year fellowship for researchers from Latin American and the Middle East to work with us aiming at enhancing EAP’s visibility in both regions.
My mission in promoting digital scholarship in Brazil is far from over as I am flying back to the country next week. This time I was invited by the Universidade Nacional de Brasília (UnB), to deliver a presentation and two workshops on Digital Curatorship at the 11th International Workshop on Information Science, from 12th to 15th September. After that I will participate in the 7th Week of Integration of Librarianship Students, from 19th to 23rd September, at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), where I will talk in more length about digitisation workflows and other projects involving metadata enhancement and collection dissemination at the BL, including the exciting Elastic System project, featuring the work of our artist-in-residence, Richard Wright. It is always great to see how the work done by the BL Digital Scholarship team is inspiring colleagues abroad to start digital scholarship activities in their home institutions!
Aquiles Alencar-Brayner, Digital Curator