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UCLA Team Creates Virtual Library of Medieval Manuscripts

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Over the past decade, as many as 10,000 of the rarest and most important medieval manuscripts have been scanned into digital formats that could be studied on the Internet, but finding these documents online can be extremely difficult. "Searching for medieval manuscripts gets you millions of hits, most of which have nothing to do with manuscripts, and when they do, they usually feature only images of a single page rather than the entire book," says University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor Matthew Fisher. "Since finding these great projects is so tough, they're functionally invisible."

Two years ago, in an effort to make these documents more accessible, Fisher started working with UCLA's Center for Digital Humanities computer developer Christopher Baswell to collect links to every manuscript from the 8th to the 15th century that had been fully digitized by a library, archive, institute, or private owner anywhere in the world. In December, the Catalogue of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts project announced that it now contains links to nearly 1,000 manuscripts by 193 authors in 20 languages from 59 libraries around the world.

To enable users to search for manuscripts by author, title, language, and archiving institution, the catalogue uses a Web application designed by the Center for Digital Humanities. Fisher hopes that outside funding will allow the project to expand, and that libraries will take notice of the effort and redesign their cataloging procedures to make it easier to find and link to newly digitized manuscripts.

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