Scholars will soon have online access to 250,000 research volumes from a premier theological school, thanks to a donation from the Claremont School of Theology to the Internet Archive.
Strengths of the collection include Comparative Theology and Philosophy, Feminist Theology, and Afro-Carribean spirituality. In addition to the 250,000 volumes, the library is donating its Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Collection, the world’s largest collection of images of ancient religious (Jewish and Christian, biblical and extra-biblical) manuscripts, currently housed on microfilm. Half to three quarters of the collection contains images of manuscripts which are not currently available on the web from any provider.
The donation stems from a 2019 decision by Claremont, an independent theological school in Southern California, to affiliate with Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
Claremont students began making the transition to studying in Oregon in the fall of 2019.
The cross-state move also required relocating the institution’s Religious Studies research collection. Unfortunately, a large percentage of religious studies materials only exist in print and many tomes are out of print.
The institution’s board worried about cutting scholars off during the move. Physical materials can be lent between research institutions via interlibrary loan, but that leaves unaffiliated researchers without access. And public health concerns during the COVID-19 crisis have given these arrangements an uncertain future.
So the Board of Trustees authorized a donation to the Internet Archive so the 250,000 piece collection could be placed in the Internet Archive’s Open Library for controlled digital lending, and the Ancient Biblical Manuscripts Collection can be mobilized and made available online. The Internet Archive will find funding for the digitization and long-term preservation of the collections.
Controlled digital lending allows a library to digitize a book it owns and lend out a secured digital version to one user at a time, in place of the physical item.
“Claremont School of Theology is delighted to partner with the Internet Archive in making accessible these prized collections of a research library for the general public,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kuan, President of Claremont School of Theology and Professor of Hebrew Bible. “Our alumni/ae are excited that they will soon have access again to the library that they had come to treasure as students.”
”The CST board approved this donation in large measure to increase global access to religious studies scholarship,” said Thomas E. Phillips, Dean of the Library at Claremont School of Theology when announcing the donation. “These volumes include many very important and very recent resources in the field.”
“The Internet Archive is delighted to add this important religious studies research collection to its Open Library program and make it widely available to scholars. This donation shows how a growing number of libraries are focusing on providing controlled digital lending access to their collections, to ensure legally purchased, library-owned and library-borrowed materials are available to researchers, readers and scholars regardless of where they live,” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian and Founder of the Internet Archive.