(9 October 2015) The Chinese collections at the British Library consist of more than 100,000 printed books and 2,500 periodical titles. The material has been acquired or donated to the British Library since the Department of Printed Books in the British Museum was founded in 1753, the year of the foundation of the Museum itself.
During more than 250 years of collection history, the library’s librarians and curators have been working extensively to catalogue and document the Chinese language material, in order to make it available to readers. Before the era of computers and the internet, the collection was catalogued on cards that provided essential information for each book, such as the title, the author, the physical description (dimensions, number of pages, images and so on), the subject and a “shelfmark”, which linked to the location of the item. This data is still the basis of the electronic records produced and used today in libraries and archives around the world.
In association with British Library Labs, LibCrowds has been launched, a platform that hosts experimental crowd-sourcing projects focused on enhancing access to British Library collections. The first project series, Convert-a-Card, is dedicated to the retro-conversion of Chinese and Indonesian printed card catalogues into electronic records, in order to make them available to a worldwide audience via the ExploreBL catalogue.
At the time of writing, Convert-a-card has received 18,434 contributions by volunteers based in 27 different countries.
Read the illustrated story in full here.