Making Digital Marks on Medieval Manuscripts
Edited By Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel
In his farewell address, President of the United States, Barack Obama, commented, “[o]ur Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power—with our participation, and the choices we make.”1 To put this another way, documents require community in order to be both effective and affective. As Andrew Cole and D. Vance Smith have argued, the Middle Ages still have legitimacy for the development of theory. If medieval thought still underpins how we approach the world critically, then broad access to and understanding of the era’s documents are important to our appreciation of our own era. Yet, the bar needs to be lower for comprehending the significance of these documents. While items such as the US Constitution already have enough political, historical, and cultural currency as not necessarily to require community to be actively built around them, many more obscure documents need bringing to light. The efforts of digitization can only bring us so far. Good metadata is important for discovery, but it is not enough to uncover the multifarious connections between documents.2 Even systems that uncover topical links between texts that have been transcribed or processed via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) cannot alone provide context. But, communities working to annotate key information and interrelations, and to provide ← 113 | 114 → commentary and context, can create a living system around our cultural heritage that can make it both relevant...
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