Digitization gives Slavic materials new life

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The thrill of an unearthing a long-forgotten treasure in the stacks is a private joy for most, but library staff get the added thrill of bringing the materials to a wider audience through digitization, as Slavic librarian Anna Rakityanskaya well knows.

Rakityanskaya recently spearheaded a project to bring unique materials online after making her own discovery: a collection of ephemera showing the political and cultural life at the end of the Soviet Union in the late ’80s and the dawn of the new Russia in the early ’90s.

“I recalled one box from the collection out of curiosity from the Depository and I thought it was very interesting, it’s so alive,” she said. The ephemera collection had been minimally described, materials placed in boxes in random order and housed in remote storage, making spontaneous discovery unlikely; Rakityanskaya worked to reorganize the collection’s several thousand pieces into seven distinct sub-collections and created detailed bibliographic records for each, enabling them to be better located by search.

In order to facilitate the discovery even further and provide greater access for teaching and learning, Rakityanskaya arranged for the whole collection to be digitized — a decision supported by the faculty and funded by the grant from the Harvard College Library. Four out of seven sub-collections are now fully scanned and available for use.