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Manuscript Scholar and Open Data Advocate Dr. William Noel Appointed to Associate Vice Provost for External Partnerships at the Penn Libraries

Posted on by Sara Vilanova

Dr. William Noel has been appointed Associate Vice Provost for External Partnerships, in addition to his current role as Director of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts and Director of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS). In his new appointment, Noel will raise Penn Libraries’ global profile as a center of excellence for the imaginative employment of modern technologies to discover and disseminate cultural heritage information to new audiences the world over, and for the creation of partnerships that provide access to unique resources and once-hidden collections in Philadelphia and internationally.

The Associate Vice Provost (AVP) for External Partnerships at the Penn Libraries serves as a member of the Vice Provost’s administrative team and participates in leadership of Center and University priorities in support of the Libraries’ strategic partnerships, prioritizing the advancement of engagements with local, national, and international cultural heritage institutions. “I am thrilled to have been appointed Associate Vice Provost for External Partnerships,” says Dr. Noel. “This is an extraordinary time for our Libraries as we continue to focus distinct collections for our faculty, build partnerships with extraordinary institutions globally, and seek to make our most rare and precious material open and accessible to anyone and everyone who could use them to build knowledge of our world and societies.”

Before arriving at the Penn Libraries, Dr. Noel attended Cambridge University where he received both his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees, and where he held a postdoctoral fellowship from the British Academy. He has built a global reputation as a passionate advocate for open data, pioneering the presentation of machine-readable, openly licensed datasets of digitized medieval manuscripts on the web. A specialist in the fields of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman manuscripts, Dr. Noel came to Penn in 2012 with a wealth of experience in the application of digital technologies to manuscript studies and was well known for directing an international effort to read and conserve unique ancient texts in a manuscript called the Archimedes Palimpsest. Noel later turned this project into the Neumann Prize-winning, co-authored book The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity’s Greatest Scientist and a TED talk with over one million views: Revealing The Lost Codex of Archimedes.

Noel’s contribution to the Digital Walters, an open access collection that presents full digital surrogates and catalogs of illuminated manuscripts held by the Walters Art Museum, provided a model for one of Noel’s largest achievements at the Penn Libraries: the implementation of OPenn. OPenn, a webpage that contains sixty-five terabytes of high-resolution archival images of cultural heritage material along with machine-readable descriptive and technical metadata, features open access material drawn from 32 institutions in Philadelphia and around the world. In 2013, Dr. Noel was recognized for his work in the field of open data by receiving a White House Open Science Champion of Change award from the Obama administration.

In addition to this work, Dr. Noel serves as an active leader and influential participant in his scholarly community. Noel is Vice Chair of the Philadelphia Area Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL), serves on the Hidden Collections grant review panel for the Council on Library and Information Resources, and is the Executive Editor of Manuscript Studies, the Schoenberg Institute’s journal on global manuscript studies in the digital age. He is also on the faculty of the Rare Book School of the University of Virginia, and is an adjunct professor in the History of Art Department at Penn. Dr. Noel was selected to deliver the prestigious McKenzie Lecture in 2014 at Oxford and is delivering the distinguished Sandars Lectures in bibliographic studies at Cambridge University next month.

This position will fundamentally change Penn Libraries’ relationship with the world as we become more proactive partners with global cultural heritage organizations. “As the Penn Libraries advances its agenda into the 22nd century, we are remarkably lucky to employ a preeminent talent like Will Noel,” says H. Carton Rogers III Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Constantia Constantinou. “His new appointment presents a tremendous opportunity for libraries, museums, archives, and galleries across the world to network together in novel ways that will construct the future of cultural heritage management for years to come.”