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The Interdisciplinary Nature of Digital Preservation of Heritage
The Interdisciplinary Nature of Digital Preservation of Heritage

Recently, at MCM DAV College Daljit Ami made a presentation on behalf of PDL about their efforts to digitally preserve heritage. He especially emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge production, drawing on as an example, the fact that the Punjabi Literature and History department organized the talk that day. He brought into the discussion the academic choice to treat history and literature as separate disciplines in academics, while in life they are inseparable fields.

Daljit shared the experience of PDL's growth into the institution it is today, from an initiative taken by Davinder Pal Singh and Harinder Singh nearly a decade ago, in 2003. In the early stages, PDL initially made digitizing manuscripts from rural areas a priority, as they were considered most vulnerable. Over the years though, PDL came to realize that heritage is not confined to disciplinary, linguistic, temporal or geographical boundaries, and in this way, the digital scope was expanded to include rare books, magazines, newspapers, photographs, paintings, maps and any kind of intellectual or creative expression.

In order to define this expanded area of operation, PDL sought to digitize materials representing the intellectual heritage of united Panjab which had been produced in any language, and to seek out materials written in Punjabi and about Panjab anywhere in the world. In this way, PDL expanded its scope from a specialized regional focus, to a contribution to preserving the global heritage of humankind all over world.

With this expansion, PDL began to feel the pain of heritage being destroyed by war campaigns and lack of care on a much larger scale. For example, Daljit pointed to the destruction of the museums of Iraq and the recent burning of an old library in Egypt, while emphasizing that that disasters are not isolated incidents.

Daljit also shared the technical aspect of PDL operations and the organization's approach to preserving the heritage material through digitization and data-management. PDL has developed its own standalone computer applications for data management, while committing to maintaining international standards of digitization, ensuring that the digitized data will remain compatible with future technological advances. For example, by using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Roman script has become searchable as images, and this same principle can be applied to other scripts, including Gurumukhi.

To conclude, Daljit discussed the social and voluntary aspects of PDL, especially as it has grown almost exclusively from donations made by concerned supporters. The role of volunteers is very important to making the heritage material available to PDL scanners and cameras, data-management, dissemination of ideas, creating awareness and mobilization of resources. He called on students to join PDL as volunteers, which generated an enthusiastic response. Those students, and anyone interested in volunteering, can visit PDL office or website to explore the ways you can contribute with your talents and resources to the future of the organization.

In thanking PDL for their presentation, Dr. JatinderKaur noted that it was an important occasion for the students, as well as teachers, to consider the importance of interdisciplinary approach through digital preservation of heritage. She said that such considerations help different departments of the social sciences and computer science to assemble on the same platform and think together as conscious citizens dedicated to preservation.

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