Blog topic: Digital medieval manuscripts

A screenshot of Animal Crossing: New Digital Humanities where Camille Villa presented on IIIF for bringing art into the game.

Building pandemic-era community with "Animal Crossing: New Digital Humanities"

October 25, 2021
by Quinn Dombrowski

When campuses across the world shut down their physical spaces in March 2020, lecture series were canceled or moved to Zoom, where many of them remain to this day. Speakers and attendees learned how to manage the gaze of the webcam with carefully curated spaces in their homes, virtual backgrounds, special lighting, or reducing their presence to a simple black square.

Parker 2.1 home page

Parker on the Web 2.1 Launches

March 3, 2021
by Benjamin L Albritton

When Parker on the Web 2.0 launched in 2018, it was the culmination of a long-term development plan to host an international collaborative project on sustainable infrastructure at no cost to the user. The engineering effort was immense, and that effort paid off: we saw a nearly 10-fold increase in visitors to the site, and the incorporation of IIIF functionality to the Parker manuscript content allowed the digital objects to be used in a myriad of new projects, from AI-driven initiatives like handwritten text recognition and feature recognition, to crowdsourcing transcription projects, and aggregation and reuse across multiple platforms. While Parker 2.0 was a technical success, the intellectual content of the site - the painstakingly-crafted descriptive metadata produced in the late 2000s that drove Parker on the Web 1.0 - was not fully added to the new platform. Thanks to the encouragement of dedicated Parker on the Web users and scholars, we were able to prioritize a large-scale reassessment of the project descriptive metadata, identify gaps, and restore the manuscript descriptions to their full glory - improving the discovery functionality for the site and providing users with rich descriptions for every manuscript in the collection. Parker on the Web 2.1, released on March 3, 2021, finally completes the migration of the project from a stand-alone site built on bespoke software and using a customized and unique metadata structure to a sustainable and extensible collaboration built on open source software and common metadata standards.

Fragment of Text of Canon Law dealing with statues in church

Eight new digital collections now available in SearchWorks

Eight new digital collections are now available in SearchWorks. These collections take advantage of SearchWorks' ability to provide users with rich discovery and access capabilities for finding and working with digital collection content.

Medieval fragments study collection, 11th-16th cent

Abstract: Primarily fragments, these specimens were acquired to demonstrate the development of writing in the western world. A variety of scripts are represented, from Carolingian minuscule to the humanistic hands and the "cancelleresca."

Collection contact: Benjamin Albritton

Digging Deeper Logo

Digging Deeper - an online course about medieval manuscripts

In January, Stanford launched Digging Deeper: Making Manuscripts, an online learning experience devoted to the technologies involved in creating and interpreting medieval manuscripts. We're off to a roaring start with thousands of enrolled participants across more than 90 countries (and it's not too late to sign up!).  The creation of the course has been a truly collaborative experience: Stanford University faculty and library staff have worked closely with counterparts at Cambridge University, Stanford Academic Technology Specialists, graduate students, and a team from Stanford's Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning to produce a suite of learning materials that have become much richer than any of us envisaged at the beginning of the process in 2013!

Bridget Whearty and Astrid Smith in the digitization lab

Making a digital medieval manuscript

As the CLIR postdoctoral fellow in Data Curation for Medieval Studies at Stanford I work primarily with data about large collections of digitized manuscripts and fragments. For example, I have helped to make our teaching collections more easily discoverable in Searchworks. I've also been bringing together partner institutions' descriptive metadata to feed a specialized manuscript search environment. 

In practice, I write code to transform batches of 70, 300, 500, or 1000+ manuscripts at a time: I've gotten very comfortable thinking of medieval manuscripts in the tens, hundreds, and even thousands. But the truth is that these large batches of digital-medieval manuscripts I curate are built of unique, single objects. Single objects that, just like the physical objects they grow from, are made by individual people, in particular environments, under specific institutional, financial, and social pressures. 

In order to better understand the process that leads to the creation of a digital-medieval book, I recently followed the digitization of a fifteenth-century book of hours, Stanford University Libraries, M0379, from the request for digitization, through the slow hard work of taking the images and hours of post-production labor, to its arrival in Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). 

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