WTO Digital Library Project Summary
Stanford University Libraries
October 19, 2001
Stanford University Libraries have embarked on a multi-year project to capture digitally a significant collection of archival material, internal documents and selected publications produced by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and its successor organization, the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The result will be a unique digital collection of source material vital to the study of the economic, political, and diplomatic history of the latter half of the 20th Century. The project’s goals are to both assure the long-term survival of this information (preservation component) and enhanced access to the material on the part of scholars, non-governmental organizations, commercial enterprises, and the public in general (access component). The project involves on-site digital capture, metadata gathering, file processing, access control, output design, and long-term electronic document management. Begun in the summer of 1999, we expect to complete the project within five years, with an estimated scope of at least 2,200,000 page images.
The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is the predecessor to the World Trade Organization (WTO), an international governmental organization (IGO) that received much attention during its meetings in Seattle in the autumn of 1999. GATT was active under that name from 1947 until 1994, when WTO was founded. The records of GATT are now managed by WTO in Geneva. WTO has no centralized, organized archival system due to insufficient budgetary resources. In part as a result of this budgetary shortfall, the WTO does not currently possess staff time necessary to review for declassification much of its historical archives. Government delegations, sponsored individuals, and a select group of scholars are provided various levels of access to protected materials in Geneva.
In 1996 at the request of Congress, Stanford Professor Judith Goldstein was officially sponsored by the United States Trade Representative’s Geneva Mission to receive access to a large range of WTO and historical GATT documentation including a large percentage that remains inaccessible to the public. Under Professor Goldstein’s aegis, the Stanford University Libraries acquired a large collection of GATT documentation on microfiche. In the course of Professor Goldstein’s research as well as during inquires with staff at WTO, we discovered that a large number of historical GATT documents (many of scholarly interest) were not included in the microfiche collection. During an April 1999 trip to WTO headquarters, Professor Goldstein, accompanied by senior library managers, identified systematic shortcomings in the WTO's program for preservation and organization of its archival and documentary history. Officials there were hospitable to Stanford’s offer to take an active role in capturing and organizing such documents. In July 1999, the Stanford Libraries and the World Trade Organization executed an agreement under which Stanford would preserve the GATT 1947-1994 “archive.” Stanford determined the most flexible means of achieving this end is to scan and digitally preserve the GATT documents. Due to space restrictions and the activity calendar of the host organization, it was found practical to conduct scanning activities only during an annual six-week period, beginning at the end of July.
Because WTO has no centralized, organized archival system, a very important part of this project involves identifying just what materials from the files, libraries, and offices in the WTO constitute a part of this archival initiative. This process is ongoing. For example, the organization and subject files of the first WTO Director-General, Roberto Ruggiero, were recently added to the project.
During each field visit, Stanford staff create a digital image of each original document in TIFF format at 300-400 dpi for most documents and 400-600 dpi for photographic images. Quality assurance review and editing is performed on each file. The digital images are then transported by courier on portable media to Stanford, where the files are backed up and migrated to a server. At Stanford, Digital Library staff are at present exploring means for long-term output, display formats, and linkage of metadata to images/text. We will later create an EAD-standard electronic finding aid and web interface.
Through the three successive site visits conducted thus far (1999-2001), some 1,181,000 pages of documents and 541 photographs have been scanned. We believe that over 1,000,000 pages remain to be captured, a process that will require two further field seasons. (Again, the uncertainty about the page count derives in part from the fact that Library and WTO staff are reviewing shelves and files to identify appropriate material to add to the project.)
A second phase of the project, dependent on external funding, will involve digitization of all or a significant portion of the GATT microfiche collection.
A significant portion of the digital project currently involves material that can be made available immediately to the scholarly community, non-governmental organizations, commercial enterprises, and the public at large. This component includes a number of monographic publications, a major legal series (the Certified Protocols 1947-1994), the photographic archives, and approximately 60 percent of the internal documentation series captured by the project. However, a second portion of the project involves classified “archival” material (including the central registry archives, office files of the Legal Affairs Division, Market Access Division, among others). Currently most of this material is open only to WTO members and/or staff. Most of it is selectively accessible to academic scholars who have been granted permission by WTO staff to review the files. The Stanford Libraries anticipate that creation of a digital version of the documents will enable WTO staff to more efficiently review significant portions of the “archival” collection for de-classification. Ultimately it is hoped that the entire Digital Library will be available for broad access by the public, non-governmental organizations and for-profit enterprises.
University Librarian: Michael A. Keller – (650)723-5553 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Director: Charles Eckman – (650)723-2982 – email@example.com
Library Foundation Relations: Andrew Herkovic – (650)725-1877 – firstname.lastname@example.org