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DONDENA Seminar Series Spring 2023 - Peter Baldwin

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"Building a New (Digital) Library of Alexandria"




Open access is the movement seeking to make knowledge freely available, not locked behind paywalls or for subscribers only.  Digital technologies make production and dissemination of the last copy largely costless. Open access thus becomes possible, but not imperative.  Many interests resist opening content up – publishers, rights holders, authors.  And much content – corporate R&D, for example – will likely never be open.  But for scholarly content – largely produced at taxpayers’ expense – the moral case for being accessible is persuasive.  The talk will examine how scholarly knowledge can be opened to the world – the ethical imperative behind accessibility, what the costs are, how they can be met, how opposition can be overcome, why the hard sciences and humanities are at odds over such issues, and, above all, how the age-old dream of an Alexandrian library containing all of human knowledge is finally not only possible, but probable in our lifetimes



Peter Baldwin is Professor of History at UCLA, and Global Distinguished Professor at NYU.  Recent books include: Command and Persuade: Crime, Law, and the State across HistoryFighting the First Wave: Why the Coronavirus Was Tackled So Differently across the Globe; and The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle. His last book, Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should be Free for All, is available in an open-access edition at:


You may follow the seminar online via ZOOM Meetings at the following link: