This year marks the centennial of the city of Tel Aviv. In the spring of 1909, when Palestine was still under Ottoman rule, sixty-six Jewish families purchased lots in Karm al-Jabali, on the northern outskirts of the ancient port city of Jaffa near the Mediterranean coast amidst dunes, vineyards, and orchards. The Ahuzat Bayit (literally, Housing Property) “garden suburb” soon had its name changed to Tel Aviv, or Hill of Spring. This was a scriptural allusion – the prophet Ezekiel [3:15] mentions a place in Babylonia called Tel Aviv – that also possessed a contemporary political resonance: The Hebrew translation of the book Altneuland (Old/New Land), in which the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl outlined his utopian vision for the Holy Land, bore the title Tel Aviv.

About The Collection

At the end of 2005, the Stanford University Libraries acquired a rich collection of books, pamphlets, magazines, printed ephemera, posters, postcards, photographs, maps, architectural plans, and original documents about the early history of "The First Hebrew City." It was assembled over a span of forty years by Eliasaf Robinson, a Tel Aviv native and Israel's most prominent antiquarian bookseller. The Eliasaf Robinson Collection on Tel Aviv - as it is now known - comprises approximately five hundred printed volumes (books and periodicals) and twenty linear feet of archival materials. It is already among the most sought-after resources in the Stanford University Libraries.

Eliasaf Robinson was impressed with Stanford's ability to digitize its library holdings and make them accessible over the Web - and that was a major reason behind his decision to offer his collection to this institution. And indeed, over the past eighteen months much of the collection has been scanned. The digitized collection now includes over one thousand photographs and postcards, three hundred printed volumes, two hundred large format materials (posters, maps and sewer diagrams) and six linear feet of archival materials.

Digitizing the Collection

The Eliasaf Robinson Tel Aviv Collection is remarkably heterogeneous in its physical formats, presenting particular challenges to the digitization process: it includes not only photographs, postcards, printed ephemera and correspondence, but also a number of rare books and serials. No single scanning device could possibly be used to capture all of these materials digitally: such as poster-sized images (up to 26 x 34 inches), single sheets of varying sizes on brittle and fragile paper, and tightly-bound book material.

In this first digitization pass through the collection's material, the Stanford Libraries' curator for Judaica and Hebraica, Zachary Baker, focused on the pre-1948 material that best shows the development of Tel Aviv as a city.

Approximately fifty percent of collection has been digitized, using a wide variety of scanning devices. Our desire to capture the collection digitally with the best available fidelity and resolution guided the selection of the scanning device for each material type.

The largest component of the collection digitized to date consists of photographs and postcards, of which there are about a thousand. They were scanned using an Epson 1640 XL flatbed scanner. Descriptive metadata such as sub-collection identifiers, subjects, and any hand-written notes associated with these images, was captured using BScan software.

Manuscript materials and printed ephemera such as correspondence, programs and pamphlets were digitized using the I2S DigiBook. This overhead digital camera was able to take high-quality photographs of fragile materials while requiring minimal physical handling. The large posters and maps in the collection were scanned using a Phase One P45+ digital camera, which allowed us to increase resolution by taking multiple shots of a piece's various sections, and digitally stitching them together. Metadata for these items was created in the Archivists’ Toolkit to generate MODS records.

The Tel Aviv Collection also includes about four hundred fifty rare and unique monographs and serial issues. Approximately two hundred and eighty of these were selected for digitization using the I2S DigiBook. With this camera we were able to capture excellent-quality images with minimal pressure on the books, despite their tight bindings. These materials are described in our online catalog with traditional MARC cataloging records. In those cases where public display of a text is permissible, there is a PDF link to that text in the public catalog record.

Participation and Acknowledgments

The Eliasaf Robinson Collection on Tel Aviv was acquired through the Eaton W. & Beverly H. Ballard, Jeannette Meisel & Salo Wittmayer Baron, Paul Hayfer, Hirschman, Kenyon Law Starling, and Hobart N. Young Funds, with support from the Jewish Community Endowment Fund and Koret Foundation Funds.

Thanks also to the former and current directors of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies, Professor Steven Zipperstein, Dr. Vered Shemtov, and Professor Charlotte Fonrobert, for their strong support of the collection's acquisition and the exhibit and digitization projects that followed, and for organizing the academic panel on Tel Aviv that accompanied the launch of this website.

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