AlKindi online catalog: the future of Islamic studies cataloging

Recently, the Dominican Institute for Oriental Studies in Cairo published a new version of their catalog. The technology and thinking behind this catalog is very exciting.

Their technology is probably the best out there. They have full support for the Islamic languages and offer an interface in three languages. As such, the entire catalog is permeated with mixed language usage, and this seems to create no problem at all. They further implemented a layered approach to cataloging any object. Four levels indicate a thing and its creator.

  • Item created by a previous owner.
  • Manifestation created by a publisher.
  • Expression created by an editor or translator.
  • Work created by the original author.

This allows for a precise description of the object. Better said, it allows for precise descriptions, as one object can now have multiple entries for each level that can be linked to each other.

This in turn allows the catalog to be used in different ways. Especially the work level is interesting, because it is completely detached from an actual edition. This means for example that they could create an entry for a work that is lost. That is useful if that entry is then linked to other entries, such as ‘all works of one author.’

In fact, IDEO wishes to go well beyond that. Another project that they ran is called The 200 Project. They chose 200 important Islamic intellectuals from history, and added all kinds of extra links between entries, such as influence from one work to another (e.g. commentaries) or lineage (student-master). The project is over, though it is hard to imagine a project like that is ever done. Nonetheless, the potential for this resource is huge. The catalog is now not only useful to find a book in the IDEO library, it will be a useful tool too to learn more about a book, its author, and its historical context. In short, AlKindi is quickly becoming a modern version of the Ṭabaqāt literature.

They have further connected secondary literature to the entries of the 200 project. This, together with the fact that they catalogue all articles within a journal as separate entries, may be the start of a worthy competitor to Index Islamicus (which I have never enjoyed using) and other indexing publications.

In short, I wish to draw your attention to the best digital gateway for Islamic Studies out there, which I suspect will keep growing.

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