The following has been contributed by Dr. Liz Hebbard. It is part of our ongoing series of posts celebrating the current work of MEST faculty at IU Bloomington.
On January 9, 2020, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) announced the funded grants for the 2019 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives competition. Among the funded grants is a project hosted by Indiana University Bloomington, “Peripheral Manuscripts: Digitizing Medieval Manuscript Collections in the Midwest.”
Peripheral Manuscripts undertakes to digitize and describe 78 medieval manuscript codices and 406 fragments, most of which have never before been fully catalogued, held at twenty-two Midwestern institutions. The manuscripts will be transported to the digitization lab at IU Libraries, where they will be scanned or photographed in high resolution, and then manuscript specialists on the grant team will begin the work of carefully cataloguing each item. The resulting manuscript descriptions and IIIF-compliant images will be made freely available through an open access Indiana University digital repository. The official start date of this grant is June 1, 2020, and the grant will run for three years.
In addition to the concrete goals of digitizing and cataloguing medieval manuscripts held at our partner institutions, this project aims to build community within regional networks that allow for the sharing of expertise and resources. The project focuses on collections held at institutions that have not previously had the staffing or means to digitize and catalogue their medieval items.
Across the United States, there are hundreds of medieval manuscripts—especially fragments—that have never been included in bibliographic surveys, and even at large, well-known collections, there are manuscripts that have only been briefly identified or described. Projects like ours aim to create new knowledge about these unknown and understudied objects, but also to bring them to a wider audience of scholars who can continue to add to that knowledge in light of their own research backgrounds. To this end, our descriptions and images will be integrated with existing digital collections in order to make them more discoverable to reveal relationships among items held at many different collections across North America.
Medieval manuscripts that are currently held in North American collections have fascinating stories that participate in a long history of the sale and dispersal of private libraries and of individual books. Midwestern manuscript collections play an important role in the conservation of the objects themselves, as well as the history of the cultural centers (museums, libraries, colleges, and universities) that study them.
The grant team includes PI Liz Hebbard (IU, French and Italian), Co-PI Michelle Dalmau (IU, IDAH and IU Libraries), Co-PI Sarah Noonan (Saint Mary’s College), Co-PI Ian Cornelius (Loyola University Chicago), and representatives of each of the collections whose medieval manuscripts will be digitized and described over the course of the project.