IBM and the Egyptian Government are collaborating to preserve and document the heritage of the National Archives of Egypt. The ambitious project deals with one of the most comprehensive digital archives on the African continent, housing over twenty-five million records and 90 million documents. The project will preserve a wide range of cultural materials, with a focus on improved access and resource management. |
In initiating the project IBM worked with the United Company for Services and Integrated Systems to deploy a digital scanning laboratory and bring all of the relevant documents to digital form. This was done in conjunction with the development of free website used to host select documents, making them available to a broader public in the process.
Aside from the obvious curatorial benefits, the size and nature of the IBM-Egyptian Archive project has also ensured the creation of more than 2000 public and private sector jobs in the country. Collaborating with big business to implementing labor-intensive projects with long-term cultural value has been a favored approach of the Egyptian government in recent years. Digitization of the existing National Archives has been lauded as combating unemployment and economic crisis through beneficent public work.
Far from a bureaucratically driven make-work project, the IBM collaboration is also committed to creating real cultural and economic value. Following work on Eternal Egypt and Egypt Memory, the development of the Egyptian National Archive is the latest government attempt to use advanced technologies in linking the Egyptian historical past with the country’s cultural and technological present, and turning a handsome profit in the process. How, exactly?
The cost of the project has been justified by government authorities and leading academics for its prospective long-term financial benefits. Advocates cite the sale of electronic records and documents that make up the archive as having inestimable economic potency. In this way, the translation of Egypt’s history from conventional sources into the digital age can be seen as the perfect marriage between culture and capital. Web hosting of such diverse historical source material makes for increased accessibility, greater availability and, when the money begins to come in, guaranteed investment in this and other Egyptian digital history projects in the near and distant future.
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