Our first aim is to preserve these historically significant items, especially those written or printed on wood pulp paper and those that are unique or extremely rare. Among the manuscript correspondence and other documents, many documents exhibit tears, folds, wear, acid burn, stains and other damage. Digitization will preserve these materials that continue to degrade and potentially reduce handling (although increased visibility of digitization will bring increased use to some materials).
There is also evidence that some letters are missing. While those were likely never at the Benson, a full inventory with quality digital images and accompanying metadata, along with modern security standards in the rare book stacks and reading room, is the best way to document and protect these invaluable documents that belonged to presidents, thinkers, military leaders, and others.
It will also allow for new uses of materials through crowdsourced transcription, text mining, GIS, social network analysis, and other forms of scholarship. Finally, it will help to make these materials available to anyone with an internet connection, including Mexicans who may not have access to these materials documenting their history.
Digitization is also an opportunity to engage a scholar with expertise in 19 th century Mexican history to create metadata, thus making these materials much more findable than they are now. Currently, the documents are available to researchers in our rare books reading room, but they have no presence online or in any more research-friendly digital format. There is little documentation of their origin and scholarly significance and what exists is contained in older print bibliographies.
Finally, one of the goals for marking the centennial of the Benson Latin American Collection in 2021 is to preserve digitally and make accessible large sections Genaro García Collection. Over the years, we have digitized individual items and oversized materials, sometimes with assistance from LAMP and LARRP. Additionally, to support our Digital Scholarship program, we have digitized some boxes of photographs. This is our first opportunity, however, to curate a digital collection from the Garcia papers that broadly addresses a theme. In the process, we will undertake the first major digitization project that is a collaboration between the Benson and University of Texas Libraries Digital Preservation, using the Benson’s know-how in metadata creation and Digital Preservation’s expertise and equipment to facilitate digital imaging.