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Over 3 million digital objects available from Leiden’s Special Collections

Leiden University Libraries (UBL) is making over 3 million digital objects (more than 60TB) available worldwide for education, research and the general public through its new website Digital Collections. The new website offers digitised books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, maps, photographs and music from Leiden’s Special Collections.


Digital Collections features digitised or born-digital material from the UBL. The website provides access to Leiden’s rich and diverse collections, including the mythic epic La Galigo which has been recognised in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, Maps and Atlases, Anatomical Drawings, letters by and to Carolus Clusius (1526-1609), Photo Albums, Western Medieval Manuscripts and Southeast Asian Pop Music.


The digitised collections were already accessible in part through a multitude of systems. The material from UBL and the former libraries of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) have now been brought together in a single environment. The digitised material is freely availble worldwide through Open Access under the Creative Commons CC BY Licence. A small part of the collections is restricted to specific groups or may only be consulted within the UBL due to privacy or copyright considerations. UBL will also be offering the collections through other online environments like Europeana and more specialised portals to facilitate integration with similar collections at other institutions. UBL uses international and open standards in order to make this material available as widely as possible. The material in Digital Collections can also be found and accessed through the UBL Catalogue.


The Digital Collections website contains functionalities such as searching in full-text (where available), ample zooming options plus the option to download material. All objects have permanent links so that they provide durable references for academic and other publications.

Under Continual Development

The Digital Collections website is continually being developed. New items are being digitised and added regularly. In addition, new functionalities are being developed, such as specific options for maps and other geographic material, videos of interactive objects, extensive download options so that these collections can also be searched using computational techniques, and applications (for instance to make annotations) based on the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). UBL is a founding member of the IIIF Consortium.

Every month for one year, a specific collection from UBL’s Digital Collections is highlighted to serve education, research, acdemic and professional media and the interested public. The series starts in May with the presentation of UBL’s cartographic collections.

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