[Humanist] 22.545 the Digital Scriptorium

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Feb 18 10:32:46 CET 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 545.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 18 Feb 2009 09:29:35 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the Digital Scriptorium

Many here will know about the Digital Scriptorium 
(www.scriptorium.columbia.edu/), "an image database of medieval and 
renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from many 
institutions into an international tool for teaching and scholarly 
research". DS is hosted by the Columbia University Libraries but 
involves as voting members 11 other American university libraries. 
Knowing it you will know of the fine work of Dr Consuelo Dutschke, 
Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Executive Director 
of the DS. To get an idea of the intellectual qualities brought to bear 
through the DS see Dr Dutschke's "Digital Scriptorium: Ten Years Young, 
and Working on Survival" 
As my colleague David Ganz, Professor of Palaeography, King's College 
London, wrote to me, her essay is "at a level of discussion which few 
manuscript websites, and fewer palaeographers, are farsighted and hard 
headed enough to achieve".

Note well the word "survival" in Dr Dutschke's title. Severe budget cuts 
that Columbia is now facing -- severe enough to threaten layoffs as well 
as cutbacks -- have hit the Scriptorium. Axes will fall, as a friend of 
mine said, putting me in mind of what that means in the Sagas. It's 
difficult to know exactly how serious the blow is, but it's clear that 
now is the time for support to be expressed tangibly if not just loudly. 
A number of prominent people and organizations have already been 
mobilized, but spreading the news will help.

Note also, if notice is needed, that the DS is important to us here not 
just because it exemplifies a fine way to use the digital medium to 
assist the humanities. The further challenges that manuscripts pose to 
computing number among the most precious and beneficial we know. It is 
precisely when it is possible for someone in authority plausibly to 
declare a problem solved, more or less, that it becomes crucial for us 
to persuade the world that the challenges we discover, not the solutions 
we devise, are the real gold.

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

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