The following is a guest post by Michael Mellifera, a digital collection specialist in the Digital Resources Division at the Law Library of Congress.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, the Law Library of Congress has been collecting foreign official gazettes and maintains the largest collection of these sources in the entire world. The Law Library’s gazette collection contains current, historical, and subnational jurisdictions from most countries and in most languages. Official gazettes are primary sources of law published by national and subnational governments to disseminate new legislation, regulations, and decisions of governmental bodies. These publications often contain the text of international agreements, court decisions, official announcements, and government notices. For foreign, comparative, and international law (FCIL) researchers, official gazettes may serve as the sole source of authoritative texts of laws for countries with civil law systems until updated codes are published. The oldest gazettes within the Library’s collection reach back to the seventeenth century, such as The London Gazette of the Government of the United Kingdom. For newly acquired gazettes that are printed on good quality paper, the Law Library will bind all gazette issues; however, many historic gazettes are printed on newsprint or low-quality paper that becomes brittle with time.
The Law Library began a decades-long process in 2019 to digitize its collection of print gazettes, and in the future, the Law Library is likely to pursue digitizing its gazettes previously preserved in microfilm. In 2022, the Law Library sent 1.76 million pages of gazettes for digitization in order to preserve this valuable information content and make them fully accessible to researchers and other members of the public. The vast majority of digitized gazettes are not restricted by copyright and will be made available online but for those gazettes that do have copyright restrictions, the Law Library makes this content available on its in-house display for copyright-restricted content, Stacks.
In December 2022, with the recent release of The Cook Islands Gazette, the Law Library celebrated a significant milestone—over 10,000 foreign legal gazette collection items have been released online as part of this project, with additional gazettes being released nearly every month. A lot of work goes into powering the display of this content, and dozens of remote interns and volunteers each semester help create metadata for gazette issues which enable researchers to browse gazettes by subject or search by citation. Gazette collections that have languages in Romanized script are also now full-text searchable, yielding results in the native language used in the gazette, such as searching the word cidadãos across the gazette collection. We are proud to celebrate this accomplishment with our partners in the Preservation Services Division of the Preservation Directorate, the Digital Content Management Section of the Digital Collections Management and Services Division, and the Collection Services Division at the Law Library of Congress who assist with the digital content management lifecycle on this project.
The Foreign Legal Gazettes team expects to publish thousands more digitized gazette issues over the coming years, and, in addition, gazettes continue to be released in the Stacks digital collections available onsite at the Library of Congress. For now, please enjoy exploring the Foreign Legal Gazettes in the Law Library of Congress collection and continue checking back as additional gazettes are added on a regular basis.
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