Written by HyunCheon Kim / Translated by JaeMin Woo
Anyone can find rare ancient Korean books like “Dae-Dong-Yeo-Ji-do” and “Suk-Chon-Je-A-Do” online without having to visit Harvard Yenching Library. The library has been digitalizing its Korea collection and publicizing via its website.
The digitalization will allow the public to have more access to Korean cultural heritage that was only available for the associated students or scholars.
Yenching Library currently owns 12,000 antique Korean books. Of these books, the library digitalized 1,500 that were not available in Korea, with the support of The National Library of Korea.
“We’re doing this to not only preserve historical artifacts, but also make these ancient books available to people around the world,” said Kang Mi Kyung, the head of the Korea collection, who has been in charge of the project since 2007.
According to Kang, the number of Yenching Korea collection’s rare ancient books is the largest in all of the Western countries.
“Many scholars visit from around the world to collect research materials. With this new system, the scholars from Korea do not have to make the long trip anymore; this will reduce their time, cost and effort,” said Kang.
“When I was feeling the need to preserve these books, both the Korean National Library and Yenching had begun digitalizing their ancient books; we were finally able to make rapid progress when James Cheng, the chief librarian, responded positively to the National Library of Korea’s contact,” Kang revealed.
She also added, “The project allowed me to reevaluate Korean antique books and realize the importance of their cultural heritage. I hope this project expands beyond the small collection of rare books,”
With The National Library of Korea as its sponsor, the project mainly focuses on their interests. However, Kang believes that if the project can operate with private donations, the project can easily expand itself.
To find digitalized versions of various ancient Korean books, visit http://guides.hcl.harvard.edu/content.php?pid=186004&sid=1561802 and click on “National Library of Korea – Harvard-Yenching Library Korean Rare Book Digitization Project” or “Minsokwon project”.
The original images of books like “Dae-Dong-Yeo-Ji-Do”, “Suk-Chon-Jea-Do” and “Shim-Chung-Jun” are available for viewing and printing options.
The best of all Yenching’s digitalization project is Kim Jung Ho’s “Dae-Dong-Yeo-Ji-Do”. Yenching was able to digitalize this very rare book in extreme detail and upload the entire map on its website.
Every page of “Dae-Dong-Yeo-Ji-Do”, a series of 22 books that compiles ancient Korean maps and reaches 360 centimeters in width and 685 centimeters in height when put together as a whole, was scanned and uploaded.
Another example of an uploaded work is an exceptionally rare collection called “Suk-Chon-Je-A-Do”by Han Pil Gyo (1807-1878).
The collection, highly researched by Korean scholars, which is the only book which depicts Korean government offices of the 18th century, was digitalized and is now easily accessible.
After he became a government official by successfully passing the government examination at the age of 26, Han ordered a painter to draw every office he worked in and recorded his tasks in the books until he died at the age of 71.
The online digital database also includes works written in Korean. The digital versions of these books, such as “Shim-Chung-Jun”, allow the public to enjoy vivid descriptions of the penmanship and way of speaking in the 1800s.
However, The National Library of Korea does not support Yenching digitalizing many of its anthologies and genealogies, fearing that it might cause controversies.
The only genealogy that has been digitalized so far is”Sun-Won-Sook-Bo”, which belonged to a descendant of King Sae-Jong’s 4th son. This project was possible only when Ms. Kang sponsored the project with her own money and the library received donations from the descendants who were concerned about its preservation.
ⓒ 보스톤코리아(http://www.bostonkorea.com), 무단전재 및 재배포 금지