The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online and the Darwin Correspondence Project are two of the longest running digitisation projects in the UK.
The International Dunhuang Project is a “ground-breaking international collaboration to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet and to encourage their use through educational and research programmes.”. It is international project running since 1994, hosted at the BL and has over 140,000 relevant images online.
The Darwin Correspondence project aims to document and add scholarly apparatus to over 14,000 of Darwin’s letters (both received and sent). Hosted at Cambridge University, the project is a mixed media one, with both digital and print outputs.
Both are huge projects and are need of continued assistance to digitise all the items within its orbit – the Darwin project aims to have 30 printed volumes, and complete around 2025. (!)
But of course the difficult thing is to find continued funding for such projects. For funding bodies or charities there are diminishing returns in funding something which already has had some academic impact. The gains are less tanglible if one funds something which is not trying to innovate and is already established in the academic blood stream. Equally, a funder will have less say in the project if it is jostling against many other donors who have already funded it.
I’m not quite sure how this is solved! Potential fund raising needs to get that much innovative in order for the projects to reach their natural conclusion.