Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

Fall 9-2018


digital humanities, medieval, manuscripts, manuscript studies, digitization, data curation, metadata, interoperability, Walters Art Museum, Parker on the Web, ecodices, Chaucer, Hoccleve, Lydgate


This chapter seeks to demystify invisible work at the heart of manuscript digitization. Descriptive metadata and its curation are the unseen elements upon which image discoverability—and later reuse—depends. Seeing and taking seriously that labor, I contend, is fundamental to developing a more rigorous understanding of medieval manuscripts in our increasingly digital age.

The chapter begins by connecting major challenges facing manuscript interoperability to the deeper disciplinary histories of codicology, library studies, and digital humanities. Next, it progresses through three case studies, each of which illustrates different challenges in digital manuscript studies. Studying the Walters Art Museum metadata, I emphasize how change (mouvance, variance) is inevitable in digital manuscripts. Working with Parker on the Web, I reveal how and why data curation is a process not just of preservation, but also of loss. Finally, in ecodices, the Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland, I connect individual curatorial choices to larger debates about access, audience, and the problematic monolingualism of the digital humanities.

Throughout, I argue that creation and curation are not neutral acts. I repeatedly highlight how my medievalist roots shaped specific curatorial practices and use medieval poets to theorize my work on digital manuscripts. By foregrounding my own narrative of growth as a digital humanist, I seek to show how often-unseen laborers profoundly influence digitizations--and, through them, digital humanities more broadly. Ultimately, I argue that a more just digital humanities must include digitizers in its histories, presents, and futures.

Publisher Attribution

ARC Humanities Press



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