Project History

This online library is part of a cooperative effort between the Stanford Libraries and the World Trade Organization and has been made possible in part through a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, an independent US Federal agency supporting a range of preservation and access programs.

In summer 1999, the Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources (SULAIR) and World Trade Organization (WTO) entered into a partnership to preserve in digital form the history of the WTO's predecessor organization, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The resulting GATT Digital Library now incorporates a diverse collection ranging from a complete English-language set of the organization's documentation as well as a large set of archival resources including the organization's central registry, divisional files and a photograph collection. Hosted and maintained at Stanford—which has invested several million dollars in the effort—the GATT Digital Library is a unique collection of source material vital to the study of the economic, political and diplomatic history of the latter half of the 20th century. As such, access to the Library will be of interest to a broad range of communities, including scholars, non-governmental organizations, commercial entities, as well as national and intergovernmental agencies.

During the four-year phase running 1999-2002, the project, funded entirely by Stanford, focused exclusively upon digital capture of paper-based content stored in the WTO headquarters in Geneva. The capture phase included scanning, metadata generation and file processing efforts related in large measure to the archival component of the collection. Subsequent to the close of the capture phase in September 2002, the project began work on access control, output design, and long-term electronic document management. In October 2002 the project received a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent US federal agency that supports innovation, best practices and professional development in several fields, including digital preservation and access projects. The IMLS grant provided $250,000 US in support for both digitizing and providing a web-based interface to a unique and complementary collection of GATT Documentation held on microfiche within the Stanford University Libraries. This Documentation is primarily in English, with a small number of French and Spanish-language documents included.

The project focused during the past three years on the planning and execution of the IMLS-funded portion of the project in close consultation with WTO staff and members of the project's Advisory Board. The project has worked closely with an internal WTO working group to ensure that the public website provides effective access to public components of the GATT Digital Library consistent with the needs of users as well as the functionality available on the WTO's own established website. Project staff hope that the WTO will over time agree to the de-restriction of further content within the documentation and archival components of the GATT Digital Library. Project staff will work to ensure that newly derestricted content is made available via the public website.