Dr Rose Faunce is presenting a paper titled "Hidden Treasures: Making discoverable medieval manuscript fragments in Australian and New Zealand collections" at the 14th International Digital Curation Conference (IDCC2019), hosted by the University of Melbourne on 4 - 7 February 2019.
Rose will present on her case study of rendering the Australian National University Library’s small legacy collection of medieval manuscript fragments as metadata, and discuss how it has transformed the ways in which it can be accessed, researched and reused. She will also point out some of the links that she has identified with manuscript fragments in collections in Australia and around the world.
Thousands of premodern manuscripts survive in fragmentary form, the consequence of a gamut of vagaries, both deliberate and accidental. These dismembered leaves, cuttings and binding waste of fragmented manuscripts traditionally have not been considered valuable and consequently are understudied. This material is now being re-evaluated by scholars exploring the opportunities presented by digital technologies to search for and link related fragments, offering tantalising glimpses of what once existed. The neologism ‘fragmentology’ has been coined for this melding of manuscript studies with technology.
Many library collections in Australia and New Zealand hold premodern manuscript leaves. Generally not being easily accessible they are not well known and consequently have attracted little scholarly attention. My paper will report how this is being changed through Fragmentarium, an international digital scholarly portal developed in collaboration with 16 partner institutions in Europe and the USA to aggregate data on manuscript fragments. Fragmentarium enables librarians, researchers and students to contribute descriptions, high-resolution images and transcriptions of fragments. Tools are also provided to facilitate collaborations to link data and virtually reconstruct related fragments. The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) standards and the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) are used allowing for the exchange of well-structured electronic machine-readable records.
My case study to publish the metadata of Australian National University Library’s small legacy collection of medieval manuscript fragments in Fragmentarium has resulted in a significant increase in their discoverability and expanded access to a global audience. To date, the University’s fragments have been linked to fragments held in some forty collecting institutions around the world. Four of the fragments, their far flung location in Australia and association with the biblioclastic activities of Otto F. Ege (1888-1951) identified for the first time, are now part of virtual reconstruction initiatives.
Interest generated from this successful trial has led the libraries of the Universities of Tasmania, Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Dunedin Public Library, New Zealand, to share the digitised content and metadata of their fragment holdings inFragmentarium. Rendering these collections as datasets will transform the ways in which the manuscript artefacts are accessed, researched and reused. It will potentially also shed new light on the factors that compelled the acquisition of medieval manuscript fragments in Australian and New Zealand.