The National Archives has joined with NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and six major universities to digitize its holdings of historic Arabic language materials to Arabic Collections Online (ACO), an Arabic digital library freely available to the public at dlib.nyu.edu/aco.
ACO, an open-access initiative sponsored by NYUAD, has set a goal of reaching 20,000 digitized Arabic books provided free of cost to a global audience. ACO is sponsored by NYUAD in partnership with Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, American University in Beirut, American University in Cairo, and, now, the National Archives, who will support with the digitization of the materials.
Using state-of-the-art digitization techniques, ACO is preserving thousands of volumes from their partners’ distinguished library collections to provide an online repository of Arabic-language material for the global community. Seeking to preserve Arabic-language resources for future generations, topics covered on ACO range from fiction, poetry, literature, criticism, and culture to society, economics, history, law, biographies, and Islamic studies.
“Many of the aging books in existing library collections are irreplaceable once they succumb to deterioration over time. One such document available through ACO is Aḥādīth al-ṣabāḥ fī al-midhyā’. Published in 1947 and featuring the religious teachings of Sheikh Maḥmūd Shaltūt, the late Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the original book was never reprinted and now exists only in a few libraries,” said Justin Parrott, Librarian for Acquisitions and Middle East Studies at NYUAD.
Director-General of the National Archives Dr. Abdulla Alraisi, noted that NYU Abu Dhabi is partnering with the National Archives on two fronts. The first is the contribution of the institution's books to the online repository of the archive. The second is supporting a five-year project with Arabic Collections Online in concert with the National Archives.
More than half of ACO’s user community reside in Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria, two countries that have endured significant conflict and destruction of their libraries and heritage. Other researchers utilize ACO across Europe and North Africa, as well as Russia, Indonesia, South America, and Australia.
ACO is an ongoing initiative that continues to roll out upgrades to improve user interface and features, as well as adding thousands of new digitized books with the goal of reaching 20,000 volumes. Readers can view books in the online digital reader, or download them as high or low-resolution PDF files for off-line viewing at their convenience.
For more information and to access content, please visit the website at dlib.nyu.edu/aco