Revealing the Invisible Heritage of Panjab Date: Thursday, 20 August, 2009
For the first time ever a searchable collection of millions of rare pages on the Sikhs and the region of Panjab has been made available. Panjab Digital Library (PDL) will include texts of manuscripts, books, magazines, newspapers and photographs and will be available to anyone with Internet access at www.PanjabDigiLib.org. This launch was made possible in part by The Nanakshahi Trust and the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI).
PDL has been in development since 2003, charged with a mission to select, collect, preserve, digitize and make accessible the accumulated wisdom of Panjab. Texts were included without distinction as to script, language, religion, nationality, or other human condition.
"Since long, preservation of heritage, research and education have been a victim of apathy in Panjab; more so, in the last century. With the launch of the online digital library, we have tried to fill some of that gap. PDL is a humble offering to the community what it lost 25 years ago," said Harinder Singh, co-founder and executive director of SikhRI who also serves on PDL board. "Scholars will be able to access a wide variety of information concealed in the manuscripts and other literature of the region with the click of a mouse sitting in the comfort of their homes. This is essential to the growth of Sikh and Panjab studies and its meaningful representation in the fast-changing modern world."
Digitization technology brings with it untold benefits for heritage preservation and access. Once a document has been properly digitized it becomes immortal and can remain accessible long after the original has ceased to exist. The option of digital access further aids in preservation of originals through reduced need for physical handling. The central digital archive which the PDL has developed over the last six years allows for wide electronic access to the public and will help the researcher to search, browse and sift through vast amounts of data in seconds.
According to Davinder Pal Singh, PDL's co-founder and executive director, "PDL will break many barriers which currently restrict a conventional library. Information is decentralized, through its shared storage and access model, thus enabling utilization of a single resource concurrently by multiple users all over the world. On a local note, assuming that every household will possibly have a computer within the next ten years, PDL holds great promises for the people of Panjab especially."
"To date, PDL has been instrumental in digitally preserving over 2.5 million folios from 3,400 manuscripts, 2,200 books, 1,990 issues of periodicals, 5,578 issues of newspapers, 3,152 photographs, 248,000 legal documents and some 168 hours of video recordings," commented Gurvinder Singh, PDL's US Coordinator. The current collection of data amounts to about 15,000 GB of available information.
Among others, major institutional collections digitized to date include SGPC, DSGMC, Government Museum and Art Gallery Chandigarh, Chief Khalsa Diwan, Panjab Languages Department, and Kurukshetra University . Critical works of significant importance from the personal collections of Prof. Pritam Singh, Dr. Man Singh Nirankari, Dr. Kirpal Singh, Dr. Madanjit Kaur and Prof. Gurtej Singh are also available at PDL.
"PDL is the only non-profit, non-governmental organization to have initiated a digitization project for the preservation and upkeep of Panjab archives, and perhaps the only one in India " said Gurnihal Singh Pirzada Director, PDL's board member. "PDL has undertaken rigorous research and laid solid ground work in order to be in the best possible position for this launch. Projects around the globe were closely studied as models for establishing a successful digitization project. Internationally recognized benchmarks were referred to and complied with," he further said.
PDL is an ongoing project in its early stages and the collection will grow substantially in coming years. New titles are being digitized everyday and the Web site will be updated with new features and titles on monthly basis. PDL staff will be adding at least 50,000 pages per week to the Web site's collection.