The Library and Information Services at the Cyprus University of Technology has defined that one of its major priorities is to collect, disseminate and preserve cultural heritage and to contribute to the cultural evolution of Cyprus. The Library, responding to its social role in the preservation and enhancement of cultural heritage has recently completed various historical collections digitization projects such as the Nicolaos Xioutas Archive, the “Satiriki Epitheorisi” project, the Photos from the Cyprus ports project, the Photos from Olympia Gymnastic Association project, etc.

One of the main goals of these projects is the preservation and enhancement of the value of the cultural heritage of Cyprus, presenting the history, the traditions and the customs of Cyprus internationally. Additionally, the Library aims to identify, acquire, preserve, and provide access to published knowledge, to promote equity of access to information and intellectual freedom, to support education and continuous learning and research, to support the development of information literacy in society and to serve as a focal point for communities and to promote community interests.

The Library, in cooperation with various institutions of the country, is actively involved in the recording and digitization of cultural heritage content, while at the same time is providing an advisory role in digitization.  The Library implements innovative information technologies and has established experience in implementing complex digitization, documentation and editing of cultural heritage projects.

The development of this digital content aims to the dissemination and promotion of the Cyprus history, the long-term preservation of the cultural heritage for future generations as well as for educational purposes, research, and development. The Library has already developed important partnerships with different local organizations such as the Pattichion Municipal Museum – Historical Archives Research Center and the Theatrical Museum of Cyprus, playing an active role in the recording and the digitization of the cultural heritage of Cyprus.

The Cyprus University of Technology, being the most active academic and research institution in Cyprus in the field of Digital Heritage, actively participates in several European projects. In order to have a better conduction and completion of these programs, the University proceeded with the creation of the Digital Heritage Research Laboratory, which belongs to the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Informatics of the university.

Apsida is the digital repository of the Library of the Cyprus University of Technology containing a wide variety of historical content. The mission of this project is to provide free online access to archival resources from all the digital collections of the Library of the Cyprus University of Technology and disseminate cultural content.  Apsida includes more than 20000 digital objects such as archival documents, photographs, books, caricatures, videos, magazines, stamps and 3-D material.  This rich cultural heritage material also contains important antiquities such as vases, prehistoric figurines, paintings, stamps and photographs.

The collections of Apsida cover a wide range of the history of Cyprus as they include material from the early Bronze Age (2000-1850 BC), the Cyprus-Archaic period (750-600 BC), the Byzantine period, the period of British rule (1878-1976), the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, the period of the Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974, and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union today. Therefore through Apsida the visitors can search in more than 130 digital collections of various institutions such as: institutions, museums, municipalities, communities, cultural institutions and private collections.

The Cyprus University of Technology Library through Aspida offers to the public for the first time such a large and unique collection of digitized content provided by Cypriot public and private culture heritage content stakeholders.

For the development of the Apsida infrastructure the Library has assessed a number of available software and has chosen to use the Omeka software. Omeka is an open source software designed specifically for museums, libraries, archives, and reports. Omeka also provides the capability to extend the system’s functionality by installing new applications. Apsida uses the following applications:

  • Geographical identification (Geolocation): For each item submitted in Asida the geographical coordinates of this item are also added via Google maps. In this way the categorization of the material by geographical area is achieved and guests can browse through the digital collections in a map environmenr. The geographical designation could be a useful tool to support cultural tourism for local communities.
  • Metadata harvesting protocol OAI-PMH: In order to provide metadata to various international accumulators the Open Access Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is being used. This is a protocol that provides the interoperability framework for collecting metadata digital documents, enabling communication and cooperation of digital libraries.
  • Social labeling (Social Bookmarking): This allows the addition of a list of social networks to the digital collections providing the possibility of sharing the digital content on social networks.
  • Reports: It allows the creation and presentation of reports with digital objects from various digital collections.
  • Custom design (Responsive Design): The Apsida website has been designed using the responsive design technology making it 100% compatible with all mobile devices.

The Apsida project aims to help small and medium local cultural institutions and organizations to raise their digitized material into the European digital library Europeana. Such organizations and institutions either do not have the necessary expertise and time to digitize and display their collections on the internet or do not have the financial capacity to carry out these procedures. Additionally Apsida provides its expertise to the enrichment of metadata and micro-services such as geographical locations, historical names, multilingual vocabularies and Wikimedia to optimize the experiences of users of Europeana.

Sending data to Europeana is done through the National Metadata Aggregator which is under the management of the Ministry of Education and culture from 2011 to date. The aggregator is powered by an open source software and it performs a coordinating/ monitoring role with regards to the configuration and the upload of metadata from Heritage Institutions of Cyprus to the Europeana to achieve compatibility in the respective standards adopted.

The Library ensures that the digital public collections of private bodies and institutions of Cyprus are capable to being protected and highlighted in the best way through Europeana, contributing significantly to the promotion of the cultural heritage of Cyprus internationally.

Until today more than 13,000 items of cultural heritage importance have been submitted to Europeana. Through this procedure the participation of significant organizations to Europeana has been achieved, a fact that contributes to the promotion of cultural heritage of Cyprus in the European and international level.

In a digitization project, even minor decisions may have a potentially large future impact. At the beginning of the Apsida project, one of the first challenges was to determine the future size of the digital repository. In order to do that we had to count the amount of documents we had to digitize, to calculate the amount of space they will need at the host server and estimate the data scalability for the following years. After completing this demanding process we realized that we only have sufficient data to make rough estimations. There was no way to predict what kind of material will come into our hands in the future for digitization and preservation. Apsida is covering a wide range of originals: newspapers, journals, photographs, etc. The Library is trying to digitize these items in high quality, with 24 bits in color depth and resolutions from 300 to 600 dots per inch (dpi). These images are registered in JPG format with sizes ranging between 30 and 800 KB.

Using the appropriate digitization equipment that complies with the materials being digitized is essential for a successful digitization project. Therefore the Library has been equipped with a high resolution scanner suitable for scanning photos and textual material. The scanned images are stored in the JPG image file format.

Anyone using the internet can access and view the contents of Apsida without any restrictions. The users can find and retrieve information from Apsida easy and fast as Apsida supports interoperability providing access via multiple search engines and other discovery tools. However, due to copyright issues, publication or reproduction, electronic or otherwise, of the items is prohibited without the written consent of the owner.

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