Gallica, shared digitization

Consisting of collections held by BnF, Gallica’s documentary offering has been built up through various partnerships and joint endeavors with a large number of French institutions, giving rise to many shared digitization programs.

Existing resources

The initial project was to establish an encyclopedic heritage library. The collections development policy was based on corpora of authors; collections of periodicals; editorial series (Mémoires de la Révolution française, Archives de la linguistique française, Collection des Grands écrivains de la France, Bibliothèque Elzévirienne, etc.); bibliographical, encyclopedic, and linguistic tools; and thematic corpora via the creation of themed multimedia reports (Voyages en France, Sociétés savantes, Anthologie des collections, etc.). BnF aims to meet this challenge with the support of all its partners from the library network. To this end, it set out a digital library development charter in 2004 and increased the resources allocated to the digital library.

The Gallica Digital Library Charter takes into account the existence of digital corpora created by agreed partner libraries, or those intending to become agreed partners, for the development of its own digital collections.

The key objectives set out in the Digital Library Charter in terms of content (to be a research library, place the emphasis on access to rare and/or out-of-print documents, restore the balance between areas of knowledge, have a preponderance of French language documents, and rehabilitate the medieval and early modern periods) will be impossible to achieve on the basis of BnF’s strengths and collections alone.

Areas for development

Recent developments in documentary strategy, which affirm the new significance of digital media, have encouraged BnF to look again at the cooperation model between BnF and its agreed partner libraries, which are in turn increasingly committed to projects to digitize their heritage collections.

For the past few years, BnF has therefore been establishing partnerships with external institutions in the area of digitization, drawing on its network. With the agreement of its supervisory authority, it has decided to step up its activities in the area of shared digitization: it contributes 50% of the funding for digitization and provides its partners with technical and scientific support.

BnF’s agreed partners are documentary institutions or networks that preserve and provide public access to collections which the BnF considers to be of national interest by virtue of their scientific interest and heritage value.
Cooperation with agreed partner libraries has therefore been refocused around two major objectives, which will need to be strengthened over the coming years:
  • supporting and helping coordinate national efforts in favor of digital media, particularly in respect of the digitization of printed materials and interoperability between digital libraries and Gallica (cross-referencing via the OAI-PMH protocol)
  • supporting investment by the Ministry for Culture and Communication (Ministère de la culture et de la communication) in favor of referencing and promoting our written historical heritage, in synergy with the Action Plan for Written Heritage (Plan d’action pour le patrimoine écrit/PAPE) and as part of concerted action at a national, regional, and local level
These two objectives are already being pursued as part of topic-based concerted digitization programs.

The first of these programs, which relates to legal science (BnF’s Law, Economics and Politics Department), was launched in May 2008 in close partnership with the Cujas library, which jointly manages the program.

A concerted digitization program in art history is under investigation (BnF’s Art and Literature Department, together with special collections departments; jointly managed with the National Art History Institute (Institut national de l’histoire de l’art)).

Other programs will be launched over the next few years, particularly in the areas of heritage literature for young people (Languages, Literature and Art Department) and history, with three sub-programs: the First World War, Colonial History, and Social And Labor History (Philosophy, History and Humanities Department; BnF’s Law, Economics and Politics Department, particularly for the press; and BnF’s Science and Technology Department for the “Areas and Territories of the French Colonial Empire” and “Colonial Healthcare and Medicine” aspects).

The aim is to create the same kind of momentum at a regional level by working with the agreed regional partners, all of whose activities include work to digitally reference and promote local heritage.

Concerted digitization in legal science

Digital partnerships are being developed with the libraries of senior branches of the civil service, and particularly with parliamentary libraries:
  • The Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée nationale, a BnF agreed partner in 2009, is undertaking work both to retroconvert its catalogs and to digitize its valuable materials (e.g. manuscripts by Rousseau).
  • The Bibliothèque du Sénat, which is already active in the area of digitization, has strengthened its ties with BnF this year and is likely to become one of its agreed partners in 2010, with plans to develop a “digital library of parliamentary law”.
Both these institutions are liable to become major players in the concerted digitization initiative in legal science, particularly in relation to the digitization of parliamentary debates.

Documentation française also became a BnF agreed partner in 2008, and its recent merger with the Direction du Journal Officiel will open the way to develop plans to digitize the Journal Officiel.

For more info

La Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée nationale et la BnF s’engagent sur le chemin de la coopération Communiqué de presse [fichier .pdf – 52 Ko – 22/12/09 – 1 p.]

Complementarity of access: the OAI-PMH protocol

In order to virtually link and facilitate access to digital collections held by French libraries, Gallica references digital documents created by its partners. This functionality is built on the principles of documentary convergence (complementarity of collections) and technical compatibility (data exchange via the OAI-PMH protocol). The following French digital libraries are currently accessible via Gallica: For example, a user entering the term “machine” in the search screen will be presented with the following results:
  • le Dessin d'une machine à feu, a [sic] double effet dont le cilindre [sic] a [sic] vapeur a [sic] 10 pouces de diamètre intérieur, by Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1825?), digitized by BnF
  • La machine animale, locomotion terrestre et aérienne (1873) by Jules-Etienne Marey, digitized by the Inter-university Library of Medicine
  • Le diverse et artificiose machine (1588) by Agostino Ramelli, digitized by the Conservatoire national des Arts et Métiers, etc.
In return, libraries may reference some or all of BnF’s resources by retrieving descriptive data about them.

OAI-PMH interoperability guide

BnF provides an OAI-PMH interoperability guide to enable libraries to have their digital documents referenced within Gallica.
Interested libraries are encouraged to write to

“Digital framework for libraries”

In the context of the National Books Council (Conseil National du Livre), BnF is leading one of the subgroups tasked with drawing up a “digital framework for libraries” (Schéma numérique pour les Bibliothèques). This “Digitization programs: inventory and consultation” group is aimed at creating the conditions for detailed programming of digitization initiatives, so as to avoid the risk of public resources being scattered and documentary redundancy occurring. Much of the methodology used to run topic-based digitization programs (in legal science, art history, etc.) has been recycled in putting together the recommendations of this working group.

Digitization activities represent the core of any digitization project, and not its final end goal. From a cooperative perspective, the benefits of such a project lie in the prior selection of documents to be digitized, as well as in various subsequent promotional activities (online publication, cross-referencing of digital collections via the OAI-PMH protocol, editorial support, writing of articles, distribution to researchers, etc.). For any digital project, the adoption of a concerted approach reduces the amount of effort needed to achieve visibility, drive use, and share resources.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Historical reminders

  • March 1992: documents begin to be selected for digitization
  • 1997: Gallica 1 is implemented (19th century documents)
  • 2000: current version of Gallica goes online (documents in the public domain)
  • 2001: First “Voyages en France” report
  • 2005: Gallica Digital Library Charter
  • 2006: Large-scale digitization
  • 2007: Gallica 2 launched March 2008: Gallica and contemporary publishing: Experimental paid offerings in conjunction with publishers (E-retailers)
  • Mars 2008: Gallica and contemporary publishing: Experimental paid offerings in conjunction with publishers (E-retailers)
  • March 2009: the Gallica Blog
  • February 2010: Gallica reaches the symbolic threshold of a million online documents (almost 400,000 of which are in text format) and adopts a new graphical interface