Paul Forman book digitization project

By Elaina Vitale, Assistant Librarian

Title page of The Stars Above Us (a book from the Forman donation)In 2011, historian of science Paul Forman donated a collection of historic German texts to the Niels Bohr Library and Archives.  Forman’s 1971 “Forman thesis” argued that the culture of Weimar Germany greatly influenced early interpretations of quantum mechanics.  His thesis was significant for challenging established notions of rationalist philosophies of science, as well as challenging the notion of German national identity.  Forman’s donation, which includes important and rare German mechanics texts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a critical and exciting documentation of his thesis. Of additional interest are Forman’s useful and careful annotations throughout the collection.  The texts are in various physical conditions, and many are unfortunately printed on acidic and brittle wood-pulp paper.

In 2014, to best preserve Forman’s donation, staff at the NBLA will make digital use copies of 44 books from his donated collection using the Library’s new Zeutschel book scanner. Digital use copies will ensure the immediate preservation of Forman’s thesis, and will be available for in-library use to interested parties. The Forman pilot project will also allow staff to gather statistics of scanning time as well as staffing and supply needs. Upon completion, the Library will not only have preserved a vital historical collection, ensured a collection’s future safety and use, but also have determined appropriate further scanner uses and projects.

The preservation assistant and librarian will scan approximately one book per week and scanning began in January of 2014. Complying with current archival standards, the Forman collection will be saved in tif file formats. The preservation assistant has 3-6 hours per week dedicated to scanning, and this will allow suitable time for scanning, file cleanup and quality control. The books will be scanned in publication order, from oldest to newest. After the completion of the project, NBL&A staff will provide digital copies of these fair use scans to online communities. It is hopeful that the Forman pilot project will be completed by October of 2014.