In 1995, the World Wide Web grew up, and in a big way.
America Online began to offer Internet service, Netscape
went public with its stock, the University of California
became the first major college to accept online admission
applications, and Vice President Al Gore coined the term
"the information superhighway."
In Baltimore, another Internet milestone occurred,
albeit slightly off the national radar. Forty-two journals
published by the
Johns Hopkins University Press were put online. Project Muse began, and a
revolution was under way.
On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the JHU Press and the Milton S.
Eisenhower Library will celebrate the 10th anniversary of
the highly successful online journals publishing initiative
with a symposium, "Project Muse: Today and Tomorrow," from
1 to 4:30 p.m. in Hodson Hall on the Homewood campus. The
symposium will be followed that evening by an
invitation-only reception and lecture featuring George P.
Landow, author of Hypertext 3.0, at 7 p.m. in the
George Peabody Library in Mt. Vernon.
Muse officially began in 1993 as a pioneering joint
project of the Press and the MSE Library. In 1995, grants
from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National
Endowment for the Humanities allowed Muse — an online
database of scholarly journals available through
subscription — to go live. It was the first project
in scholarly publishing to put established, peer-reviewed
humanities and social sciences journals online.
The goal was to disseminate the journals to a wider
audience and better serve librarians and scholars by
providing affordable and user-friendly access to the
Kathleen Keane, director of the JHU Press since 2004,
said that many people shared in the vision that launched
the groundbreaking project. In particular, she pointed to
the leadership efforts of Scott Bennett and Jim Neal,
former MSEL directors; Jack Goellner, Willis Regier and Jim
Jordan, former JHU Press directors; and Marie Hansen, JHU
Press' journals manager and Project Muse's founding
director. "Thanks, too, go to the many staff who worked
creatively, collaboratively and very hard to make Project
Muse a reality," Keane said. "Project Muse was a terrific
idea, and it was executed well."
In just three years, Project Muse was able to break
even. In 2000, 10 other academic publishers joined the
service, raising the number of journals from 42 to 113.
Additional university press and scholarly society
publishers have joined in each subsequent year.
Key to Muse's success, Keane said, is its partnership
with the MSEL, which earned it a reputation as a
library-friendly product with a superb interface and search
Today, Project Muse, with a staff of 24, offers 331
journal titles from nearly 70 scholarly publishers,
covering the fields of literature and criticism, history,
political science, the visual and performing arts, and many
others. Its collection of periodicals includes Africa
Today, World Politics, Brookings Papers on Economic
Activities, ELH English Literary History, Language,
International Security and the Shakespeare
Quarterly, to name a few.
Muse has publishers from the United Kingdom, Canada,
Australia, Singapore and Japan. The Edinburgh University
Press will join Muse in 2006, and negotiations are under
way with other international publishers, said Aileen
McHugh, director of Project Muse and electronic publishing
for the JHU Press.
Roughly 10.5 million people now have direct access to
the service, licensed to more than 1,200 libraries
worldwide, with nearly a third of the subscribers overseas
and in Canada.
Currently, Project MUSE subscriptions are available
only to institutions, not on an individual basis.
Institutions can choose from six collections, priced by
their size: Basic Undergraduate, Basic Research, Social
Sciences, Arts and Humanities, Standard (full) Collection
and the new Premium Collection, which includes all
"Going forward, we see the continued increased use of
Muse internationally," McHugh said. "We want to keep
growing because we feel we offer an important service. But
it has to be smart growth. We need to be mindful of library
budgets, select journals that our customers want and
continue to offer libraries pricing and collection options
that meet their needs."
Muse features full text and images, is fully indexed
by professional librarians and offers basic and advanced
searching. Users can print articles in printer-friendly
format and can receive e-mail alerts when a new issue of a
favorite journal goes online.
Project Muse's current annual revenue is approximately
$9 million, with a lion's share of the profits returned to
the publishers who own the participating journals. Keane
said that Muse has also produced a modest surplus every
year since 1999.
"As a result, Project Muse has been generating its own
working capital. This would be an excellent financial
result for any business started in 1995, and it's a rare
achievement in the world of academic library and university
press ventures," she said.
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