The Perkins Digitisation Project aims to raise awareness of the collection and to improve access by adding catalogue records for all the books to the University Library's WebCat, at the same time providing links to freely available digital copies.
Where none can be found, the Perkins books will be assessed by Conservation staff and, condition permitting, digitised by the Library Digitisation Unit. The online copies will be made available through links in WebCat to Internet Archive and at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
Initially the project will focus on nineteenth-century publications, online access to earlier titles already being available to members of the University through the subscription services Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online.The areas to be targeted have been identified with the help of Dr Malcom Hudson and Dr Nazmul Haq from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, and include pamphlets on the economic aspects of farming and studies of individual crops.
Many of the books contain information of potential interest today on crop varieties, yields achieved and the environmental conditions of the time. The general agricultural handbooks are also valuable historical sources, describing contemporary agricultural practices and developments and there are also many books on specific farming activities such as dairying and cheese-making. The series of county agricultural surveys sponsored by the Board of Agriculture between 1793 and 1817 allow comparisons to be made in methods of farming in different parts of the country at this time.