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Wellcome Library launches major digitisation project

23 August 2010

The Wellcome Library today announces the launch of an ambitious digitisation project, to provide free, online access to its collections, including archives and papers from Nobel prize-winning scientists Francis Crick, Fred Sanger and Peter Medawar.

Creation of the Wellcome Digital Library will throw open the doors of the Wellcome Library and its unique collections to a worldwide audience, providing a global resource for the study of the history of medicine and modern bioscience.

The Wellcome Trust has approved a budget of £3.9 million to begin a two-year pilot project on the theme of Modern Genetics and its Foundations. Drawing on the Wellcome Library's internationally renowned collections, content will include 1400 books on genetics and heredity published between 1850 and 1990, along with important archives including the papers of Francis Crick and his original drawings of the proposed structure of DNA.

Director of the Wellcome Trust, Sir Mark Walport, explains the choice of the pilot theme: "Modern genetics has made a tremendous impact on our understanding of human and animal health in recent years, and so it makes sense that the Library would begin digitising its collections in this important area of medical history. This project marks the first step on a long road which we hope will lead ultimately to free online access to all of our collections."

"In addition to our unique and spectacular collections, we have a team of experts who can offer interpretations to place the collections in their cultural and historical contexts".

The aim is to provide a documentary record of modern genetics, not only from a scientific perspective, but also from political, economic, technological, social, cultural and personal viewpoints.

"Free, online access to these highly significant manuscripts and books will be a wonderful resource for historians of medical science and others interested in genetics. It will transform what we can do," said Dr Nick Hopwood, a medical historian at the University of Cambridge. "As the Wellcome Digital Library expands, I expect it to play a major role in stimulating research and debate."

In addition to content from the Wellcome Library, up to £1 million of the fund will be used to support digitisation of relevant material from partner institutions in the UK and overseas.

Users will be able to access the repository following completion of the pilot phase of digitisation, slated for completion in September 2012.

Image: Genetics books held within the Wellcome Library. Credit: Wellcome Images

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