Revisited: Regents 2016 Tour with Brewster Kahle

02 Mar, 2016

Revisited: Regents 2016 Tour with Brewster Kahle

In a world of digital proliferation, readers remain devoted to physical books and audiophiles still search for records — in the last year, the price of famous paintings has skyrocketed. We explored our obsession over the tangible with scholars preserving some of UC Berkeley’s rarest collections and investigated the opportunities and risks digital reproductions produce in a tour on March 1st with Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, an online library that has digitally replicated whole collections of books, audio files, and visual artifacts.

Some of the questions we dealt with in this conversation around digital and material culture included: what does it mean to make a copy? What is lost in translation when a material object transforms into a digital facsimile? Is digital reproduction divorcing us from the labor costs of art?

Beginning at the Bancroft Library, we explored highlights of the Tebtunis Papyri collection with expert Todd Hickey, Director of the Center for Tebtunis Papyri. There, we learned of some of the high tech ways scholars are able to read papyri that had been recycled by Egyptians for mummies without destroying the funerary art the pieces now display. We also had the chance inspect the incredible fragility of these materials and see firsthand some of the damage done by old and incorrect preservation practices.

Les Ferriss then treated us to a demonstration of a 19th century printing press and invited us to try our hand at the physical act of book creation. We studied type face, leading, and learned more about the undergraduate course the library offers in book design.

In Dwinelle, Rebecca Levitan highlighted the university's incredible plaster cast collection. She explained the need to rehabilitate many of the casts so that they can be used as teaching materials, and how digitization would allow us to investigate the incredible color of the ancient world, without destroying the previous pieces we now hold.

At the Magnes Collection downtown, Director Francesco Spagnolo allowed us to explore curation and display as we toured the ever-revolving exhibition space, complete with objects, manuscripts, and digital files. We were also able to understand more about the physical spaces of preservation through a visit to the stacks, where we could explore their vast collection.

Thank you Elaine Tennet, George Breslauer, Todd Hickey, Les Ferriss, Rebecca Levitan, and Francesco Spagnolo for a truly inspiring experience! Photos below!

From BCNM Director Greg Niemeyer: "It was clear that reproduction, be it through cast, digital, calligraphic, print, paint or song, is the main method of cultural preservation and always has been."

What's in the other drawers @Magnes #Berkeley? Great archive tour with Brewster Kahle and Cal DH. #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

2016 Regents: Library Tour with Brewster Kahle