Afghanistan’s legacy of publishing is in clear danger of disappearing. The earliest publications appearing in Afghanistan are extremely rare and, judging by their absence from library collections around the world, are to be found now almost exclusively in private collections, where public access is limited or non-existent. Decades of war in Afghanistan have further dispersed and destroyed holdings of books within the country itself.
The immediate objective of the Afghanistan Digital Library is to retrieve and restore the first sixty years of Afghanistan’s published cultural heritage. The project is collecting, cataloging, digitizing, and making available over the Internet as many Afghan publications from the period 1871–1930 as it is possible to identify and locate. In addition to books, this will eventually include all published serials, documents, pamphlets, and manuals. Phase 1 of the project, undertaken in 2005, has drawn materials from the collections of several private collectors as well as from the holdings of New York University Library and the British Library. Phase 2, undertaken in 2006, has trained a staff at the National Archives in Kabul in conservation and digitization and is engaged in the cataloging and digitization of materials held in various public and private collections inside Afghanistan. In time the project plans to carry the dissemination of Afghan publications through the period between 1931 and 1950. Providing universal availability to this broad historical span of Afghanistan’s published history, and in the process constructing a national bibliography for the country, the Afghanistan Digital Library will reconstruct an essential part of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.
The Afghanistan Digital Library is a project of New York University Libraries with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Reed Foundation, and the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.