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Digitization Projects at the Leo Baeck Institute

The Leo Baeck Institute is continually making its collections more accessible by digitizing important parts of its collections. The digitization projects listed below were made possible through private funders, partnerships with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the Cahnman Foundation, the German Foreign Ministry, private foundations, and contributions to LBI's Preservation Fund. Most of our ongoing digitization takes place at the Gruss Lipper Digital Laboratory at the Center for Jewish History.


LBI Archives

DigiBaeck was initially a digital gateway to LBI’s archive, but the project name is now used for all of LBI's digital collections. DigiBaeck was launched in 2012 and funded through a private initiative.

As of July 2020, DigiBaeck includes more than 4.7 million pages of material that ranges from the personal papers and photographs of luminaries like Albert Einstein and Moses Mendelssohn to letters, diaries, recipes, and other ephemera chronicling the lives of everyday people.

For the launch, Leo Baeck Institute partnered with Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library that offers permanent storage of and free public access to digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books.

New LBI Archival Collections  are being digitized on an ongoing basis, partially supported by funds from the German Foreign Ministry and private Foundations, and by contributions to LBI's Preservation Fund.

In 2018, the Metropolitan New York Library Council  funded the digitization of the Rachel Wischnitzer Collection and the Gaby Glueckselig Collection.

  • Access archival collections through our Online Catalog which includes all the collections at LBI and provides links to digitized collections
  • or browse archival digital collection through our DigiBaeck website
  • or access larger archival collections though their finding aids.

LBI Art

In 2017, LBI launched the Edythe Griffinger Art Catalog thanks to a gift from a trust under the will of the late Edythe Griffinger. The grant funded  the development of a new online portal for digitized artworks and supported the work of curators and librarians who selected the most important works and improved the metadata in the catalog to facilitate discovery of works that have rarely been on public display.

As of July 2020, more than 1,300 items are available in the Edythe Griffinger Art Catalog and staff members are working to make the rest of the 8000 items in this collection accessible of which about 5000 items are already digitized.

LBI Library – Rare Books

The digitization of the library collection of  the Leo Baeck Institute started in 2005 with the digitization of parts of the rare book collection thanks to a generous grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council  (METRO).
In January 2005, METRO had launched its Digitization Grant Program as an effort to support digitization projects involving significant collections held by METRO member libraries in New York City and Westchester County. This initiative was and is supported in part by funds from the New York State Regional Bibliographic Databases Program.

A second Metro Grant provided funds to digitize a collection of rare artist portfolios in 2008.

Private digitization funds were used to digitize important 16th century texts from “The Rare Book Collection of Frank L. Herz.”  This collection focuses on the famous Renaissance controversy - The Battle of the Books - between the Christian Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin and the anti-Jewish agitator Johannes Pfefferkorn, who was trying to lobby for the destruction of all Jewish books.

Another privately funded project was the digitization of a collection of books designed by Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874-1925) an internationally renowned Austrian illustrator and printmaker who is often considered as the most prominent Jewish artist to be associated with Art Noveau or Jugendstil.

The Cahnman Foundation, New York, funded the acquisition and digitization of  “The Library of Book Designs by George Salter (1897-1967).”  For background on this project, please see this brief interview with Prof. Thomas Hansen, who collected the 300 books, book covers, and individual graphics.

In 2011 we were awarded a joint NEH/DFG grant together with the Judaica Collection at the University in Frankfurt to add books to the so-called Freimann Collection. The $180,000 grant allowed the LBI library to digitize about 1,000 books that have been identified as missing from the Frankfurt Library’s Judaica collection as reported in the New York Times. The project was successfully completed in 2014. The project is described in this 2015 IFLA article: The challenges of reconstructing cultural heritage: An international digital collaboration.

  • Access digitized library books through our Online Catalog which includes all the collections at LBI and provides links to digitized collections
  • or browse digitized books through our DigiBaeck website

LBI Library –Library Periodicals

In 2012 the LBI Library digitized Aufbau,  the leading exile journal for German-speaking Jews, which was published between 1934 and 2004.  The project was funded by the Metropolitan New York Library Council.

In 2012,  the LBI library also started to digitize other titles from its rich periodicals collections. Funding was provided by the Metropolitan New York Library Council and private donors and the periodicals were digitized from existing microfilms. -Since 2017, the Gruss Lipper Digital Laboratory at the Center for Jewish History has digitized 110 periodical titles directly from the original periodicals."
In addition, the LBI Library continues adding digitized German-Jewish periodiclas to the together with the Judaica Collection in Frankfurt and are also accessible through the Frankfurter Compact Memory Portal.
In 2019, the Library, in partnership with the Gruss Lipper Digital Laboratory and at the request of many users, began digitizing sections of Aufbau in full color

As of July 2020, 249 periodicals have been digitized and are accessible online.

  • Access digitized periodicals through our Online Catalog which includes all the collections at LBI and provides links to digitized collections
  • or browse digitized periodicals through our DigiBaeck website
  • Access the LBI digitized periodicals  through Internet Archives ; a subset of these titles are also accessible via CompactMemory

Publications related to the Digitization History of the Leo Baeck Institute

The Challenges of Reconstructing Cultural Heritage: An International Digital Collaboration
IFLA: International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions 2015, Vol. 41(3), pp. 223–229

Digitizing the Rare Book Collection of the Leo Baeck Institute.
In: Digitization in the real world: Lessons learned from small and medium-sized digitization project.
New York : Metropolitan New York Library Council, 2010. p. 185 – 194