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University of Iowa News Release


April 18, 2008

Iowa Digital Library now contains 100,000 items

During the mid-13th century, scribe William de Brailes and his students painstakingly wrote out and hand-decorated a number of Bibles, Psalters and other religious works. Today, more than seven centuries later, an original page from de Brailes' workshop resides in a vault in the Special Collections Department of the University of Iowa Libraries and is one of the prize artifacts from its Medieval Manuscripts Collection. This month, the page was scanned and uploaded to become the 100,000th item added to the Iowa Digital Library.

Digitized materials from the libraries' collections are made publicly available via the Iowa Digital Library Web site -- -- and the Libraries' Smart Search catalog. The Digital Library project began in 2006 and includes historic photographs, atlases, artworks, books, audio recordings, diaries and other documents drawn from the Libraries' archives and from faculty research collections.

The star of the UI's latest digitization milestone, a 13th-century manuscript page from the Bible's Book of Maccabees II, was selected to represent the transformation of information storage over the centuries, from handmade parchment to zeroes and ones. The item can be accessed online at,16.

"Digital versions of rare records and documents bring new attention to the physical artifacts that have made up human communication in the past," said Matthew Brown, director of the UI Center for the Book. "The Iowa Digital Library is exactly the kind of teaching tool that alerts students to meanings of the medium, whether it be paper or stone, handwriting or typeface, engraving or photograph. A humble example from the Iowa Digital Library is the set of American Civil War diaries. Here students can see a mixture of manuscript and print typical of the blank book, a historically crucial but seriously undervalued aspect of the book industry. What the digital images invite is an investigation of the artifact itself; students can examine matters of coloration in engravings, sewing in bindings, or wear in paper-all matters that give us an intimate connection to the past."

The Iowa Digital Library Web site features a recently added slideshow of collection highlights, such as rare book covers, photos of African-American women at the UI, historic sheet music, Nancy Drew books, Iowa maps and editorial cartoons by J.N. "Ding" Darling. Library staff are also celebrating the 100,000th milestone by writing about their favorite Iowa Digital Library items on the Digital Library Services blog, accessible at

"As scholarship increasingly moves online, it's essential that we follow suit with our physical collections," said Nicole Saylor, head of Digital Library Services. "By increasing accessibility to the UI's rare and unique materials through digitization, the Libraries will continue to be relevant and vital participants in the University's research and educational processes."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

CONTACTS: Kristi Bontrager, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960,; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,