November 12, 2007

Experiences with Digital history of India

The Digital History of India is online for a long time. However, it has undergone numerous changes in its display and contents. But, even then, it has always left a feeling of dissatisfaction.

It is hosted by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, CMU, IIIT, NSF, ERNETand MCIT and 21 participating centers. All the participating associates are the outstanding identities of the Indian intellectual world.

The site has a Flash Display of its aim and vision. It aims at bringing nearly one million books on Indian heritage and culture. It has links for different subjects which classify all the books which are being made available on it. It is other thing that if you start exploring the site, you may find many books classified as history but it does not have any separate classification for history.

So far so good.

My Experience:
I have learned about the Digital History of India on November 6, 2005 while making a note on Ian Sinclair blog. Ian Sinclair regularly refers to digital sources on the culture and heritage of Vajrayana Buddhism. During the process and activity of making notes on such sources he invariably refer to links to such sources which have origin in India.

Later, once I tried to explore the site, I found that the link provided there was not functional. However, while mining the Internet, I again came across the fresh URL of Digital History of India. I was again excited to find it there. At that time, it had links to numerous books from various regional languages. It had links to some other libraries in which it had included a link to Rashtripati Bhavan also. But I was not able to get any access to any text which I tried at that time. I again returned to that site but I found that even the new URL had become non-functional. I think, it was during my exploration of the ERNET resources reached through the web site of University Grant Commission that I again came across the site. At that time, the site was available in totally a new form. I found that it had given links to other libraries. I was highly disappointed. I remember that in one of my post I had criticized their efforts.

Now, I have again come across a fresh URL of Digital History of India. It was again during the mining of the Internet for the Digital Documents on India that I have located this URL. By now, my blog is quite rich with many links to such sources from where one can make his own digital library on Internet. No doubt, the visits to my site have increased and similarly the out clicks from my blog have also increased. I have been receiving good comments and references in different groups and on highly prestigious sites. A simple search query made as "sumir-history" on any search engine can prove my claim.

A case of Merii Kahaanii:

A visit to the Digital Library of India is again not a good experience. When the site opens, it gives very impressive look. There are two insignias displayed on it. One is displayed in a Flash format and shown glittering. The other insignia is a normal jpg file on the right hand site.

Below the title, there is again a rectangular Flash Display which take a lot of time to download on a computer which I am using. I have a very slow internet connection. The space available on my computer is also very less. I am using Pentium III and Window 98s operating system. A similar type of display is given on British Library. However, in case of British Library site, I do not have to wait for long for the download. However, in case of Digital Library of India, it took half an hour to download last time.

The Library has a good catalogue. India is a country of multi-language and multicultural society. As a result, there are separate links for leading languages of India wherein the old books are sifted in the corresponding category. Further, the old books are then again classified according to time period.

I tried to explore for some books. I was made to download new software in order to read them. After I had installed the software as directed, I experienced a very disappointing display. Some of the books just show a blank space as if the book is not uploaded and only a link is created. In some of the cases only the library chart of issue is displayed.

I tried to open the book written by Jawahar Lal Nehru titled Meri Kahani. I received the following message.
Drenched Book, Damage Book.

Further, the details of the book is given in the following manner. I have copied it from the site and they appear as they are written there.

Merii Kahaanii
Neharuu Javaaharalaal

I hope that the shortcoming is quite evident from the example. The spellings of title as well as author are in un-edited form. It seems that it had been scanned but while converting to the text the dealing person had not taken care of proof reading. It hardly matters as many of my posts were posted without post-editing and there are numerous spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes and skipping of the words which take place while typing down your argument or version.

Digital Libraries Option:

Visit Wikipedia with the query Digital Library, one can find a good list on it. There is a good collection of original documents, contemporary books (Primary as well secondary sources) on wikipedia associated sites.

Gutenburg project now have more that 17000 books. Wikipedia is nicely associated with Gutenburg as one can find it on its own that there is an entry each for each author or title from Wikipedia on Gutenberg site.

The Library of Congress is another site which allow you access numerous documents related to many non-USA matters.

It is part of Library of Congress work, that NARA has displayed 100 documents on American History. Well it is specifically related to American history but it is an example that how an online library should be displayed.

There are many sites of leading universities which may not allow you to access the book without registration which invariably require some payment, but they definitely allow you to access their catalogue. The site on Cambridge University has such a store house that at least one can prepare a good bibliography for any research project with the confidence that the book is available at least with that library.

The next revolutionary project in ICT and digitization is Google Books. They have now added a new feature of making a clipping from the books whether it is full available version or restricted available version. No doubt, every book entry has further information about the availability of the book with the publisher or with the associated library.

The Online Library of Liberty has 1000 books online. They have even related essays on authors, historic trends and period from which they have selected those books. The project has displayed from seventeenth to nineteenth. The special essays on thinkers written by established scholars is a feature which attracts and impress.

I am here made to direct the attention to one of my post titled Microfilming of Indian Publication Project. I am unable to understand the rational of undertaking this project when Government of India, with the help of the best brains of India, is trying to establish the Digital Library. However, the form in which the library is presently available, I believe that it is a blessing that somewhere the Government of India has realized that the work is not been done and the activity of getting online sources is worth needed and they have sought the help of the friends. The associated organization, that is Digital South Asia Library is far better source available. You can find a big set of Social Scientist there.

Moral of the Story:
Naam Unchee, Darshan Chotty.

NB: I have not given links to many of the sources mentioned above. However, I have written posts related to such sources and they are available on this very blog. One can check the archive or use the title bar above, where the query can be placed and the relevant post will be fetched. The second option is access my blog through a query "sumir-history" on

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