The project involves digitizing and cataloging 78 codices (books) and 406 medieval
manuscript fragments from a consortium of 22 Midwestern institutions, including contributions
from The Ames Library. The project focuses on distinct collections that have not been
economically feasible for holding institutions to digitize and catalog on their own.
The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) awarded $281,936.10 for the
project, and IU Bloomington will serve as host for the grant.
Elizabeth Hebbard, the project's primary principal investigator and assistant professor
of French and Italian in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington
said: “Every surviving medieval book and fragment has the potential to tell us more
about medieval book arts, textual traditions, individuals’ lives and libraries, and
even, through their physical qualities and materials, things like animal husbandry
and commerce. This is why it is so important to continue to locate and describe unstudied
and understudied manuscripts.”
Illinois Wesleyan initially proposed contributing 12 single manuscript leaves, dating
from 1220A.D. to 1450A.D. and one complete 16th century codex. Associate Professor
Meg Miner, University Archivist & Special Collections Librarian said, “During a recent
planning meeting I was excited to learn we will be able to add three books that contain
six fragments of manuscripts. These were used by book binders in the 15th-17th centuries
to support the structures of these printed books. The experts on medieval manuscripts
for this CLIR project will examine them and provide us with more information that
I can share with our community.”
Stephanie Davis-Kahl, University Librarian, said “We are grateful for the efforts
of the IU Bloomington Libraries and CLIR to include a variety of institutions in the
project, and I am especially appreciative of Meg Miner’s efforts to share the gems
in our special collections with an appreciative audience.”
IU Libraries will scan or photograph the manuscripts, and researchers at IU Bloomington,
Loyola University Chicago and Saint Mary’s College, with assistance from partner librarians
and subject specialists, will catalog these objects, including many manuscripts unrecorded
in previous bibliographical surveys.
As a result, The Peripheral Manuscripts Project: Digitizing Medieval Manuscript Collections
in the Midwest will bring a wealth of previously inaccessible and uncatalogued medieval
material to scholarly consciousness.
All of the data generated by the grant team will be made freely available through
digital library repository services developed and maintained by IU Libraries. This
data includes manuscript descriptions and high-resolution images that meet International
Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) compliance standards.
This new material will be aggregated with existing digitized collections to yield
a more comprehensive understanding of North American manuscript holdings.
“The benefit of participating in a project like this is our small collection will
join with the other partners in the Midwest in this virtual space,” said Miner, “and
ultimately become part of a network for North American repositories. Researchers worldwide
will be able to consult and compare across collections.”
Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America, said The
Peripheral Manuscripts Project is important and timely.
Davis said that in working with Melissa Conway on the "Directory of Collections in
the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings" they discovered that
the vast majority of medieval manuscripts in North America are woefully undercataloged
or not cataloged at all, making them utterly inaccessible to students and scholars
"Our hope was, and is, that scholars across the continent would take up our call to
study and catalog these hidden collections, image these unknown medieval manuscripts
and make these important relics of the medieval past available in open-access, discoverable
environments," Davis said. "Peripheral Manuscripts will do just that and will serve
as a model for similar consortial projects in other parts of the United States and