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Medieval manuscripts made available in Europeana

Over 600 manuscripts and early prints have been made digitally available by Leiden University Libraries (UBL) via the Europeana platform. In the project 'The Art of Reading in the Middle Ages’ (ARMA), seven European heritage institutions added 30,000 digitised medieval items to Europeana’s database and improved the quality of another 30,000, thus bringing medieval reading culture within the grasp of users.

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Medieval reading culture in context…

It is now possible to browse through thousands of medieval objects in Europeana, originating from all over Europe, combined with accessible historical information. Which texts were read in the monasteries, courts and cities of medieval Europe? And what do these manuscripts, early printed books and coins actually tell us about reading culture in the millennium between Classical Antiquity and the Renaissance? To answer those questions, the ARMA partners created an online exhibition in five languages. They also published about 30 blog posts and photo galleries on the subject in Europeana. Anyone who wants to enter this vast forest of digital information should start a reading quest on the feature page Middle Ages. Or, better still, should first watch the two ARMA Introductory Videos that UBL produced for the project.

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... and in the classroom

Within the project, much attention was paid to developing teaching materials for primary, secondary and higher education, including small games and videos. In collaboration with Dr Irene O'Daly of Book and Digital Media Studies (Leiden University), UBL created a eight-part video series about material aspects of the handwritten codex: Exploring the Medieval Manuscript Book. The video series offers an accessible introduction to medieval book history and can be viewed without further explanation on YouTube (total duration approx. 35 minutes). The Irish and French ARMA partners also incorporated the videos into their learning scenarios for secondary and higher education classes.

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European cooperation

Over the past two years, UBL has worked intensively with partners from Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, France and Ireland. Although most contact was digital due to the pandemic, colleagues from the partner institutions were fortunately able to meet each other in person during the concluding conference in Ljubljana. One of the results of this collaboration is that the Middle Ages are now much more prominently featured on the Europeana platform. But that was certainly not all. In several areas, the partners exchanged knowledge and experience: from the role of medieval objects in education to the use of IIIF and other digital tools. Among many other things, this exchange resulted in a biannual meeting with curators and university lecturers from across Europe on the use of digitised manuscripts in education.

Colleagues from the partner institutions concluded the project during a conference in Ljubljana.

The ARMA project also enabled UBL to substantially improve the catalogue records of its medieval manuscripts. Within the coming months, all descriptions of western medieval manuscripts in the online catalogue will have been converted into English and will be significantly expanded. In addition, the digitisation of medieval manuscripts also continues. Over six hundred manuscripts are now available through Digital Collections.

About ARMA

In the project 'The Art of Reading in the Middle Ages', seven European heritage institutions brought together their digitised medieval collections on the Europeana platform. The project was co-funded by the European Union's Connecting Europe Facility. The eight partners within the project were the National and University Library of Slovenia, Leiden University Libraries, Europeana Foundation, the National Library of the Czech Republic, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Hunt Museum and Public Library Bruges. For more information, see the project website.

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