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23-03-2020

New online portal for Dutch medieval manuscript collections

Huygens ING will set up a new website to access and study medieval manuscripts in Dutch collections, thanks to a grant awarded by the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Huygens ING is going to set up eCodicesNL, a new website to access and study medieval manuscripts in Dutch collections. This will be realised with a grant recently awarded by the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The aim is to open up a full set of digital images and good quality descriptions of medieval manuscripts in Dutch collections, both for a large audience and for researchers. Huygens ING co-ordinates the initiative to build a national portal for this cultural heritage with digital research methods.

Deventer, Athenaeumbibliotheek, 101 D 34 KL. Book of hours, 1477, Eastern Netherlands. (Copyright Athenaeumbibliotheek, used with permission from the library)

For the blueprint of the portal, we shall rely on three institutions with collections as initial partners: House of the Book in The Hague, Tresoar in Leeuwarden and the Athenaeum Library in Deventer. Their collections will deliver the first content of the virtual environment, in which at least 200 manuscripts will be published with structured descriptions and a good search interface. In the new portal, it will be possible to see manuscripts from different collections side-by-side and also next to manuscripts from digitized collections abroad that use the same standards. In the future, all Dutch collections with medieval manuscripts can use the same model, structure and standards.

The Netherlands have over 90 public institutions in which medieval manuscripts are kept: from small collections of just 1 or 2 books to more than 1,300 items in Leiden University Library. This cultural property is unique and diverse. It reflects a rich variety of historical objects, valuable for Dutch history, identity, religion, history of knowledge, science, et cetera. Parts of these collections can already be found online, but in comparison to the countries around us, the Netherlands are a long way behind. Moreover, since each institution created their own site, there is no unified access. This project aims to solve this problem. It prepares the setting up of a national manuscript portal, modelled after the Swiss eCodices, A Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland, which is a pathbreaking example for the curation and publication of this kind of cultural heritage. Furthermore, we will update and extend the old and outdated database built several years ago, in which metadata about manuscripts in the Netherlands have been assembled: Medieval Manuscripts in Dutch Collections. With the help of a grant from the Mondriaan Fund, acquired by Leiden University Library, this database can be revived.

This project will be in the hands of Prof.dr. Irene van Renswoude, senior researcher at Huygens ING and professor ‘Medieval manuscripts and cultural history (500-1500)’, University of Amsterdam; Prof.dr. Mariken Teeuwen, senior researcher at Huygens ING and professor ‘Transmission of medieval Latin texts’, Utrecht University; and Renée Schilling, MA, junior researcher at Huygens ING. The project will start in September 2020 and end in September 2022.

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