Beinecke Digital Library, always open online, continues to grow

May 19, 2020

By Michael Morand

While physical facilities may have closed on March 16, staff throughout Yale Library have been working remotely to provide services to students, faculty, the scholarly community beyond, and the public. Digital collections and exhibitions are among the key services for teaching, research, and education, so, like colleagues across campus, Beinecke Library staff have further strengthened the digital resources available for scholarly and public audiences alike.

Since April 1, the Beinecke Library has added more than 30,000 images to the Beinecke Digital Library, where they join more than a million total images of collections material accessible online. New images continue to be added regularly.

The new additions include thousands of images from archival collections such as the Langston Hughes Papers and the Thornton Wilder Papers that are among the most-requested archives by researchers in the reading room over the years – and they include items from other collections that are now represented for the first time online. As one indicator of the scope of resources being made accessible through the digital library, there are 11,000 new images from 114 total items in just the Langston Hughes Papers alone.

The process of adding images began well before shutdown and has now been accelerated even more. It is possible thanks to an effort begun two years ago to convert PDF pages that had been scanned on demand to support remote teaching and research into TIFF files that can be uploaded to the digital library and made accessible on that online platform. The PDF scans represent resources from throughout the library collections, with thousands of complete folders of archival material from hundreds of collections.

The Beinecke Library is continuing to add more than 4,000 images a week to the digital library, with plans to continue this accelerated work in the coming months. The hope is to resume onsite digitization of new content this summer when some staff could be able to work with physical collections in the library. 

“The Beinecke Library is one of Yale’s great laboratories for the humanities,” said Director E.C. Schroeder. “We have long had a digital presence – the first Yale Library online exhibition was done from Beinecke Library’s materials by George Miles, curator of Western Americana, and our dear friend, Bill Reese, back in 1996, for example. The digital library itself has been a vital portal for students, scholars, and the public for more than 20 years.”

“Beinecke Library staff in the Digital Services Unit and Access Services have really rallied to meet the challenge of the present moment and to ramp up our already robust work to add more material to the digital library,” Schroeder noted. “Their remote work has been a great wonder to behold, behind the scenes, and I am certain it will bring great results to the growing audience of people using the Beinecke Digital Library.”

Schroeder expressed gratitude, especially, to Beinecke Library staff members Rebecca Aldi, David Driscoll, Moira Fitzgerald, Stephen Goeman, Rebecca Hirsch, Anne Marie Menta, Meredith Miller, Adrienne Sharpe, and Jessica Tubis.

All are encouraged to visit the digital library and search through the million plus images available.

Particular strengths of the digital library have long included Medieval manuscripts, portions of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of African American Arts and Letters, maps, photographs, and much more. Virtually all facets of the Beinecke Library’s vast holdings are represented, at least in part, in the digital library.

A few highlights of the tens of thousands of newly accessible images include:

Katherine Dreier letter to Pablo Picasso

Langston Hughes correspondence with Lorraine Hansberry

Eugene O’Neill, early draft of Iceman Cometh

Thornton Wilder correspondence with Ernest Hemingway

William Carlos Williams correspondence with his mother

Patrons with reference or general questions are always welcome to contact the library at

Please note: due to copyright law, some 20thand 21stcentury materials from the collections on the digital library may be restricted and only available for access using a Yale virtual network connection. Researchers without such network access can e-mail to inquire about specific images.