Albert Einstein in the 21st Century

In March, Hebrew University in Israel announced that it will be digitizing the Albert Einstein Archive, a collection of 80,000 documents that the scientist bequeathed to the school upon his death. The digital archive will make the documents available to the public worldwide.

Albert Einstein Hebrew University

A Priceless Resource

On March 14, 2011 - Israel's National Science Day and Einstein's 132nd birthday - Hebrew University announced that it will digitize its entire Albert Einstein Archives. Funded by a $500,000 grant from the Polonksy Foundation of London, the project will make over 80,000 documents available in a user-friendly database to students and researchers worldwide.

Researchers at the university hope to complete the project in one year. Once the entire archive has been digitized, it will be made available on the Albert Einstein Archives website.

Visitors to the site can currently view 3,000 digital images culled from Einstein's manuscripts and search for descriptions of all of the documents held in the archives. There is also an archival database of about 43,000 Einstein-related items on the Archives website.

However, none of the Archive's photo or audio holdings and none of the content of typed manuscripts and correspondence has been made available yet. This project will open up the entirety of what Hebrew University describes as 'one of the most significant resources in the world for the history of modern physics' to anyone with an Internet connection.

digital libraries

Digitizing History

Einstein was one of the founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann. When Einstein died, he bequeathed his entire archive to the institution.

The documents had previously been preserved at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. Einstein received a professorship at the IAS after fleeing the Nazis in 1933 and continued to conduct research there until his death in 1955. The archive was moved to the National Library of Israel on the Hebrew University campus in 1982.

Dr. Leonard Polonksy of the Polonksy Foundation notes that the Albert Einstein Archives digitization project will link Hebrew University up with two digitization projects at other libraries that are currently being funded by the foundation.

The first of these projects is partially funded by a £1.5 million gift from the foundation to the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, which is currently working with Google to digitize over one million of its printed books. The second project comes from another £1.5 million gift, this time to the Cambridge University Library to support the digitization of thousands of rare books and manuscripts. The digital libraries will be known as 'The Foundations of Faith' and 'The Foundations of Science,' and will include handwritten notes from Sir Isaac Newton.

The digitization of information isn't always a good thing: A professor at the University of Virginia warns us about the Googlization of everything.

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