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Wellcome Arabic Manuscript Cataloguing Partnership

The emergence of “Wellcome Arabic Manuscript Cataloguing Partnership” (WAMCP) is the fruit of the collaboration between Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Wellcome Trust Limited and King’s College London (KCL) with funding from the JISC Islamic studies program. This project comprises a unique online resource of a collection of Arabic manuscripts related to classical medicine. It represents a significant resource for a wide range of researchers including Islamic studies scholars, medical historians, and manuscript conservators to aid and enhance their work.

Browsing the Collection

The collection is freely available online at allowing users to search, browse and filter the content as per their scope and preference. Authors or normalized titles of manuscripts can be listed alphabetically for easy browsing in addition to the possibility of filtering by approximate, scribal or librarian dates. Full metadata is also available for each manuscript with the option of downloading the whole or parts of the manuscript as JPEG images or PDF.
The online system allows for linking descriptive fields with their corresponding related pages on the manuscript thus giving users a convenient experience while browsing the content. Additionally, online users may compare two manuscripts simultaneously to illuminate the differences in the scientific presentation of the work at hand.

Maintaining linguistic authenticity

As a way to reflect the authenticity of the manuscripts digitally, the Library of Alexandria was keen to reflect also the linguistic characteristics of the manuscripts in the collection, which were characterized by using the ancient dot-less Arabic characters. Hence, a virtual keyboard has been created to provide the option of inserting dot-less Arabic characters in the search field. In addition, for non-Arabic speakers, transliteration of some Arabic words in Latin format was used to facilitate viewing and searching.

Technical Aspects

The BA has designed and implemented a new approach to handle the Wellcome Library manuscript collection. The approach focused on facilitating the cataloguing, searching, viewing and comparing the collections of ancient Arabic manuscripts thus giving users a friendly experience. The approach evolved around building structured schema-compliant records which in turn automatically generate human-friendly metadata forms. The approach also provides a solution for both cataloging using old characters and searching manuscripts using modern and old characters. An open source solution was used which can be adopted by systems for any standard and any language. It allows searching, viewing, comparing and downloading the manuscripts.
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Last updated on 03 Oct 2013