Interactive digital “Biography of a Book” project brings to life the creation, use and collection of key historic texts in the Academy Library’s rare book collections
The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded The New York Academy of Medicine Library $30,000 through its Humanities Digital Projects for the Public Discovery Grant program to support the development of its interactive digital “Biography of a Book” project. This innovative project aims to tell the individual and collective stories of books, ranging from the survival of one of only two extant medieval copies of an ancient Roman cookbook, to a twentieth century re-imagining of a classic work of Renaissance anatomy.
“We are extremely pleased to have the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities for our growing digital program,” said Academy President Jo Ivey Boufford, MD. “Exploring the intersections of medicine, humanities and the arts is a core priority for the Academy. This prestigious planning grant will allow us to bring some of our world-class Library’s treasures to broad public audiences.”
The Academy Library, which holds one of the most extensive rare book collections in the United States, has selected and digitized 12 rare books and manuscripts from its collection for the project, including the two earliest manuscripts: Apicius de re culinaria, a collection of recipes attributed to the second century Roman gourmand by the same name; and Guy de Chauliac’s Chirurgia Magna, or “great surgery,” a fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript and authoritative text on surgery through the seventeenth century. The goal of the project is to produce an innovative, interactive exhibit that will make these books more accessible to a broad audience through the use of timelines, side by side technologies, and digital interactives that illuminate how they were created, who used them, and who collected them.
The main goal of the “Biography of a Book” discovery phase, to be conducted between January and December 2017, is to develop a robust design document that will help to inform the prototype and implementation phases of the project.
The grant supports the convening an advisory committee comprising experts in the areas of history of medicine, history of the book, digital humanities, user research and technology. The committee will provide feedback both on content and on user experience.
“The distinguished group of scholars in the humanities and information science who have volunteered their time to help take the project forward indicates the importance of the work the Academy Library is doing to bring interdisciplinary communities together,” said Robin Naughton, PhD, Head of Digital at the Academy Library.
Advisory Committee Members
Denise Agosto, Professor, College of Computing & Informatics, Drexel University
Carin Berkowitz, Director, Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry, Chemical Heritage Foundation
Janet Golden, Professor of History, Department of History, Rutgers University-Camden
Anthony Grafton, Professor, Department of History, Princeton University
Heidi Knoblauch, Independent scholar (formerly Bard College)
Craig MacDonald, Assistant Professor, School of Information, Pratt Institute
Mike Sappol, EURIAS Senior Fellow, Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala
Pamela H. Smith, Seth Low Professor of History, Columbia University
Nick Wilding, Associate Professor, Department of History, Georgia State University
About The New York Academy of Medicine
The New York Academy of Medicine advances solutions that promote the health and well-being of people in cities worldwide.
Established in 1847, The New York Academy of Medicine continues to address the health challenges facing New York City and the world’s rapidly growing urban populations. We accomplish this through our Institute for Urban Health, home of interdisciplinary research, evaluation, policy, and program initiatives; our world class historical medical library and its public programming in history, the humanities and the arts; and our Fellows program, a network of more than 2,000 experts elected by their peers from across the professions affecting health. Our current priorities are healthy aging, disease prevention, and eliminating health disparities.