History of the Italian Digital Library (Bilbioteca Digitale Italiana - BDI)

The idea to launch a coordinated digital library project in Italy began in late 1999 with the carrying out of a feasibility study appointed by the General Directorate for Libraries, Cultural Institutes and Copyright to the companies Unysis and Intersistemi in Rome.
The study, updated and enlarged  in April 2003, provides the reference framework for the creation of a Italian digital library in line with similar initiatives carried out in Europe and in extra european countries.
The feasibility study presented in February 2001 during the Third National Library Conference in Padua officially launched the project called, as suggested by the study itself, Italian Digital Library  (Biblioteca Digitale Italiana - BDI).

The Conference final document identified cooperation among libraries, archives and museums as the indispensable factor for launching a digital library project, and defined the steps required for  further organizational and planning initiatives. It also expressed the need for the establishment of a group of experts in order to define the guidelines for the Italian digital libraries.
On April 30, 2001, a Ministerial Decree established the BDI Steering Committee chaired by Prof. Tullio Gregory and including representatives from state and regional libraries, museums, universities and research institutions, with the task of defining the cultural and scientific reference framework within which the existing initiatives had to be collected, identify priority interventions, indicate shared standards and technologiesand coordinate national activities with international ones.

The Committee’s activities included the support to several European projects such as Rinascimento Virtuale and Minerva (MInisterial NEtwoRk for Valorising Activities in digitisation), and the co-financing of digitisation projects submitted by libraries, also including the non-state ones.
The Committee organizational principles are based on two cornerstones: digitisation processes, including metadata, must be defined at central level and must include the complete scanning of previously defined collections. Additionally, digitized documents must always be available on the Internet in order to promote knowledge on Italy’s cultural and scientific heritage. To this end, the Committee established that all digital resources had to be included in the Internet Culturale portal realized as part of the Italian Digital Library and the and the Cultural Tourism Network (BDI&NTC) project.
These ideas began to be applied in 2005 with the creation of the first version of Internet Culturale.
BDI Programmes
  • Digitisation of historical catalogues
On the basis of a comparison and assessment study of digitized catalogues available on the Internet, and building upon an analysis of digital policies in several European and non-European countries, the Committee launched an initial project relating to the scanningof  historical catalogues of Italian public libraries in image format. This project was discussed in detail and also in operational terms during the Seminar on the Italian digital library held in Florence in December 2001.
The digitisation of historical catalogues transferred on Internet more than 200 of such items, including bound and card catalogues from Italian libraries belonging to the Ministry of Culture, local bodies and cultural institutes, at and can be visualized http://cataloghistorici.bdi.sbn.it/.
Since January 2013, the historical catalogues database is indexed in the Internet Culturale search engine. Thanks to this, it is possible to integrate search results coming from this catalogue with those coming from other databases (SBN, Manus, Edit16, Digital library, website).
  • Digitisation of musical documents
On the basis of an analysis of the Digital Veneto- Music Archive (ADMV) project, the Committee decided to realize a project to digitize printed and manuscript musical documents, thus providing the opportunity to access the digitized images through the relevant bibliographical records.
  • Digitisation of serials
The next project to be approved by the Steering Committee concerned the scanning of historic pre-unification serials, such as Gazzetta di Roma and Rivista europea, held in various Italian institutions such as the National Central Library of Rome, the Library of Modern and Contemporary History in Rome, and the University Library in Pisa.

In addition to the programmes described above, the Steering Committee also funded further interventions concerning ancient documents of great historical and cultural value, such as Mare Magnum, a bibliography arranged by topics and relating to works published between the 15th century and the first half of the 18th century and held at the Marucelliana Library in Florence; the Biblioteca Galileiana and the Raccolta di opuscoli scientifici e filologici edited by Angelo Calogerà in the 18th century and put together in cooperation with the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, the collection Scrittori d’Italia founded by Benedetto Croce and published by the Laterza publishing house, with which a specific agreement was signed for the online publication of the  collection books; I manoscritti conservati nei plutei della Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana di Firenze and the map collections preserved in the Marciana National Library in Venice (GeoWeb) and in the Italian Geographic Society.

These projects concluded in 2008-2009.
In Autumn 2010 the reengineering of the portal was carried out on the basis of the Feasibility study on the resettling and reorganization and the improved content visualization of the portal realized by the Department of Italian Studies and Performing Arts of La Sapienza University of Rome. The new editorial policy of the portal, which was renamed as Internet Culturale. Italian Libraries Digital Collections and Catalogues, had the following goals: setting out of the portal mission, enlarging its user base, strengthening its institutional and cultural identity; a integrated, user-friendly access to catalographic resources through a search engine (Opac SBN, Manus, Edit16, historical catalogues), to the digital resources of the ICCU MagTeca and to the Internet Culturale partner digital repositories, and to multimedia resources as well (hypertexts, virtual exhibitions, mini-websites, and 3D features dealing with places of cultural interest, illustrious figures, cultural tourism itineraries).