Postcard from Turkey: Digitization of sources from the Ottomon Era

Today’s postcard comes from Selçuk Aydin, Specialist Librarian and Project Coordinator at the Atatürk Library in Instanbul. Selçuk wanted to tell us about a current project to digitise historic material held in the Library.


The Foundation of Ataturk Library the first local government library of Turkey, dates back to the early days of the Republic Of Turkey (1924). The Library began at the operations in 1931 offically with the name “City and Reform Document Library” changed its location and name as it kept developing. The increasing size and variety of collections led to search for new location and the library moved to building on March 3, 1981where it operates  today and it was named Atatürk Library.

Inheriting a rich history, our library hosts about 350,000 written and typed publications. The oldest of the manuscripst are 700 years old and oldest of published works are 400 years old.

  • Mekece Endowment first written source in Ottoman history ( 1303)
  • Arabic books published in Europe ( in 1590s)
  • First newspapers of Ottoman Empire (1828) have special importance in this collection.
  • Besides these sources there are various documents such as atlases, maps, postcards, albums, yearbook and other documents.
  • Publications in the library are in 15 languages ranging from Ottoman to Armenian, English from Chinese

Background of the digitisation project

Atatürk Library serves as in important information centre for local and international researchers thanks to its variety and historical significance of publications in its collection. 

Intensive use of library collections causes wearing and damage that can not be reversed in some cases. In order to avoid such losses and provide better service to researchers by making use cutting edge technology, our library has planned the digitization of sources.


Digitization project in action. Photo supplied by the author.

In this respect works began in 1998 for digitization of historical newspapers and magazines in the periodicals. After updating the infrastructure and software a new system of institutions-based digitization projects was employed in 2004. 

Achievements of the project

  • Preventing damage to publications, preserving historical heritage and providing easier, faster and multiple access, saving money and time
  • Increasing visibility and raising awareness by Atatürk Library example towards richness of Arabic alphabet rare books
  • Providing access to thousands of books that are in the library shelves and storage rooms
  • Getting the attention local and international researchers who will study Arabic alphabet rare books, encouraging visits to Istanbul and Libraries of Istanbul
  • Training specialist librarians on cataloguing of Arabic alphabet rare books
  • Raising awareness of informatics sector for creating software and programs by the example of digitizing and cataloguing Arabic alphabet rare books..

For search and access to digitized sources: Click to “Sayısal Arsiv  ve E-Kaynaklar“

Thank you to Selçuk Aydin for this interesting contribution – we are always excited to hear about projects that protect historic material and provide access to these important resources for a wider range of researchers. Well done on the project, Selçuk!

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  1. This is a wonderful initiative; urgent and important as well, especially given the destruction of cultural heritage sites in the region.

    I wish you and your colleagues all the best with this awesome undertaking!

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