11th March 2022

The digitization as advance solution for written cultural heritage

The National Library of the Republic of Moldova, by creating the National Digitization Center, inaugurated on February 23, 2022, assumes an important role in digitizing the cultural heritage, thus contributing to the creation of the digital cultural identity of the Republic of Moldova in the virtual space.

The project will be a new impetus for the development of the National Digital Library of the Republic of Moldova, which represents the flag of our culture in the virtual space without which, as Nicolae Iorga stated, “a people is a crowd, not an unit”.

The long-term preservation of publications and especially of works that are part of the written cultural heritage has always been the priority task of the world’s great libraries and national libraries with their first library responsibility as the final resources or the final instance. ”The library of last resort” is a concept specific for such cultural institutions of national level. According to the proponents of this concept, any document that cannot be found by a specific user in another library must be able to be found in the collections of the National Library, regardless of whether it is the traditional format or the virtual format.

How much a library means to society and to national culture has been demonstrated by the fire at the National Philharmonic in 2020. In a report from the day after the fire, a Philharmonic employee confessed that the biggest loss for the institution was the loss of the library. 70% of the original musical scores belonged to the library were destroyed. And these documents, mostly handwritten, can no longer be found anywhere. By the way, the documents that could have been saved after the fire will be digitized by BNRM in the first place.

The practice of big libraries has shown that digitization is a safe way to ensure the security of publications, to store and place to abide the bad environment for the resources held by the libraries. The digital format ensures the long-term preservation, but most importantly is ensuring the accessibility of the world’s cultural values.

The librarianship and information science professionals are convinced that digitization could bring more users to the library. The more we digitize our own publications and identify what we have for a wider audience, the more researchers want to see the originals. This idea is also valid for other fields of culture: museums, archives, galleries, music collections, etc. Museum custodians have noticed that as soon as a painting appears in digital format, the number of people who come to see the original increases.

The digitization of the national cultural heritage was one of the main objectives stipulated in the Government Decision no. 478 of 04.07.2012 “Regarding the National Program for computerizing the sphere of culture for the years 2012-2020”.

The lack of the necessary equipment for digitizing the resources was the main impediment in achieving the objectives of the mentioned Government Decision. At the time of the Government Decision, the National Library had a single high-performance scanner – Atiz, purchased under the FUMAGABA program, supported by the European Union and CENL.

The Japan’s Cultural Grant was an opportunity to address the equipment issues.

Under the Project Grant, there was purchased the high-performance digitizing equipment: 4 scanners (an automatic, two half-automatic and for microfilm / microfiche ones) for the process of digitizing publications in various formats; 2 PCs, adjacent to the scanners and 3 workstations; a server for long-term storage and preservation of scanned publications and specifications for long-term functionality. The project provided transportation and installation of equipment as well as staff training.

The grant of over 7,000,000 lei, supported by the Government of Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, is the largest project implemented by NLRM; it will ensure the continuity of the development and dissemination of the digitized content of cultural heritage of the Republic of Moldova. The digital copies created will be transferred to the electronic space, thus protecting the loss of the content of heritage objects, increasing accessibility, but also ensuring the access to cultural heritage for education, research, creation and recreation demands.

The NLRM’s Digitization Equipment Improvement Project, supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), will help the institution cope with the ongoing task of being more visible and relevant on the Internet. This importance is recognized at all levels of responsibility.

The project supported by JICA is the largest project implemented by NLRM by now.

In addition to the enormous importance for NLRM, the project supported by JICA meant a series of lessons learned: on how to behave in a project being a subject of an international treaty, a Government Decision, a Parliament Decision, Exchange of Notes between the two Embassies, Involvement of the Ministry of Finance, relations with the Embassy of Japan throughout the project period, visits of experts hired by JICA, visits by other consultants, relations with the intermediary bank, relations with the winner supplying company, etc. After going through so many filters, you are convinced that nothing might be impossible. For a project that works as precisely as a watch during  each stage over a four-year period, as it was for NLRM digitization project, it is likely to require a Japanese culture of communication, as we as partners of project have to learn.

Note! The history of the project begins in 2018 and has gone through all the stages provided by the legislation of Japan for international treaties.

After the initial procedures, on July 19, 2019, at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Researches, in the presence of the Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Moldova, Mrs. Liliana Onofrei-Nicolaiescu, the Minister and Mr. Kawano Takaaki, JICA representative has signed the Minutes of Discutions on the Preliminary Survey for the Project for Impruvement of Digitization Equipment of the National Library of the Republic of Moldova.

During the year of 2020, there was an exchange of Notes between the Embassy of Japan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, made the Government Decision and the Parliament Decision.

On June 14, 2020, Mr. Igor Sharov, the Minister of Education, Culture and Researches, and Mr. Sugimoto Satoshi, the Director of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), have signed the Grant Agreement.

At the beginning of 2021, an auction was held in Tokyo, organized by JICA at which the National Library was represented by the Embassy of the Republic of Moldova in Japan.

Despite all the problems caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic, the inauguration of the National Center of Digitization within the National Library of Moldova took place exactly on the terms set at the beginning of the project.