The two year project, to be completed in July of 2012, will conserve and digitize 1,054 rare volumes from the personal library of Fairman Rogers (1833-1900), a Penn alumnus (A.B. 1853, A.M. 1856), co-founder of the School of Veterinary Medicine, Professor of Civil Engineering (1855-1871), and internationally recognized horseman. The materials to be digitized, primarily published in the 19th century, with some imprints dating to the 16th century, bring together Rogers' interest in horses, and their relationship to engineering, veterinary medicine, science, and history of industrialization, specifically related to agriculture, transportation, hauling, and construction. Comprised of medical guides, stud books, books on shoeing, harnessing, training, riding, driving, racing, keeping a proper stable, and breeds and breeding, the collection serves as a foundation for scholarly study of the role of the horse in the technical, scientific, and social evolution of 19th-century European and North American history.
In addition to his involvement in the founding of Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine in 1884, Rogers was one of 55 founding members of the National Academy of Science, and Chair of the Committee of Instruction at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He shared an interest in photography with his contemporaries, Thomas Eakins and Eadweard Muybridge. The first painting to depict horses in motion, Eakins' May Morning in the Park: The Fairman Rogers Four-in-Hand (1879), is based on Muybridge photographs, and demonstrates a technique mastered by Rogers for driving a carriage drawn by four horses while holding the reins in one hand.
The Fairman Rogers Collection has already served as source material for nationally recognized scholarship. Dr. Ann N. Greene, undergraduate coordinator and lecturer in Penn's History and Sociology of Science department, won the 2009 Fred B. Kniffen Book Award from the Pioneer America Society (PAS) for her book Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America (Harvard University Press, 2008). In the Spring of 2007, Penn Libraries hosted the exhibition, Equus Unbound: Fairman Rogers and the Age of the Horse, in tandem with the publication of Greene's book.
"Digitization will broaden access to these materials," said David McKnight, director of Penn's Rare Book and Manuscript Library and curator of the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image. "It will open new avenues of research into the history of science, horses, and veterinary medicine, as well as the development of the visual arts in the 19th century." As the latest in a growing set of digital library resources produced by Penn, the Fairman Rogers Collection will be available to scholars world-wide via the Libraries' website. Using a digital architecture developed by the Penn Libraries, the project will offer faceted searching, high resolution image viewing, and page-turning, features that effectively simulate but greatly augment the experience of handling the physical volume. Biographical information about Rogers and context for the materials in the collection will be provided alongside full text digital editions of the books. Housed at the School of Veterinary Medicine from 1914 to ca. 1964 on its Philadelphia campus, and then at the School's Library at the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, until 2002, the Fairman Rogers Collection in print is currently available for consultation at Penn's Rare Book and Manuscript Library on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.
To see Penn's Digital Library Architecture (DLA) in action, visit the Manuscripts to 1800 digitization project, an initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information:
David McKnight, Director, Rare Book & Manuscript Library