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Digital Initiatives: Digitized Theses and Dissertations Project

In the summer of 2023, the Digital Initiatives department began work on an exciting, long-term project, which focused on the department’s large collection of donated theses and dissertations. With theses originating from schools and colleges across MU’s campus, our department has collected upwards of 1,400 theses waiting to be digitized. Last August, we eagerly began the process of sorting through each thesis and dissertation, with the intention to eventually digitize and deposit them into our online repository, MOspace. Now, as we rapidly approach the one-year mark to the start of this project, our department is excited to share a brief overview and first look at this expanding collection.

When faced with the daunting task of digitizing over a thousand theses, the very beginning of our journey had to start with a thorough organization and sorting process. Our task for step one was to weed out any “unwanted” copies. An “unwanted” copy would include any non-official, non-MU, and non-graduate thesis or theses without advisor signature approvals (which would classify the thesis as “non-official”). We also wanted to eliminate any excess theses, including duplicate copies or theses that have already been digitized and deposited in MOspace.

The remaining theses entered step two of this project, which included a thorough copyright evaluation process, determining each thesis’s copyright status. Theses currently in the Public Domain were set aside for digitization, since they can be made freely available on MOspace. Theses with a copyright symbol (or published past 1989) were boxed up and sent to storage for later digitization.

The actual digitization process of this project didn’t begin until November 2023, and we expect it will continue over several of the following months. With the tremendous help and hard work of our two speedy student workers, Digital Initiatives has officially digitized 42 theses and 176 dissertations, making a total of 218 donated theses and dissertations added to our online collection: That’s an average of 27 theses a month!

Our overall thesis and dissertation collection in MOspace spans several decades, starting with theses published as early as the 1890s. This current project will add theses from four decades, beginning with the 1950s and ending in 1989. The attached graphs showcase the 218 theses and dissertations uploaded since November. At this moment, the majority of our uploaded DTDs span from 1970-1979, though we look forward to watching other decades grow as we continue our digitization process.

As our department looks back on this past year of hard work, we are eager to see what the rest of the year holds regarding this project. While it is just the beginning, we are already thrilled with all of the exciting progress we have made and look forward to our journey ahead, as we work to make these theses and dissertations available for our MOspace users. Be sure to look out for further updates regarding this project in the near future, as we have many exciting things to share ahead of us!