<![CDATA[Network for the Study of Caroline Minuscule - Blog]]>Tue, 02 Feb 2016 23:39:46 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[#CendariLaunch: Bringing Medieval Research into the 21st Century]]>Mon, 18 Jan 2016 10:29:28 GMThttp://carolinenetwork.weebly.com/blog/cendarilaunch-bringing-medieval-research-into-the-21st-century
CENDARI is a powerful new toolkit for digital historical research. The virtual research infrastructure has been developed collaboratively with historians, cultural heritage institutions and technical experts. It will make digital history accessible to a wider audience and represents a major milestone in digital cultural empowerment.

By Drew Thomas

​After four years of development, the Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure (CENDARI) was launched in Berlin on 14 January at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Funded by the European Commission, CENDARI is an online resource that integrates the digital archives of over 1,200 institutions. It seeks to provide scholars with remote access to otherwise “hidden” collections, as well as provide a digital work environment, allowing easy interaction with the materials. Scholars can save their work in the online “Working Spaces” and share it with collaborators.


The project focused on two case studies from different time periods: medieval culture and World War One. CENDARI seeks to bring access to many smaller, unknown collections in central and eastern Europe. However, as with many digital humanities projects, it is difficult to persuade users to adapt new technologies. CENDARI Coordinator Dr. Jennifer Edmond stated that a goal from the outset was to provide a “virtual work environment for scholars very attached to analog measures.”

CENDARI does this in three ways: 1) By providing access to multiple collections under one platform; 2) By providing working spaces for scholars to take notes, interact with sources, and collaborate; and 3) By providing Thematic Research Guides to introduce scholars to the material. So far there are 25 Research Guides, which draw together information from archives dispersed over a large geographic area.

The keynote speaker for medieval studies was Dr. Erik Kwakkel from Leiden University who spoke on “Something Old, Something New: Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age.” Dr. Kwakkel demonstrated two of his digital humanities projects. The first was his method of bringing quantification into the field of paleography. He assigns numerical values to the direction, number, length, and shape of strokes in a letter-form allowing him to graph the usage over time of particular strokes across Europe. He can also study how specific features traveled from one area to the next and to what extent letter-forms exhibited characteristics of a particular script.

His second project involved teaming up with Dr. Joris Dik from Delft University, who specializes in Macro X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry. Together they developed a method to view otherwise hidden pages inside the bindings of early modern books. Fragments from discarded books and manuscripts were often used to provide structure and support in early modern book bindings. By looking at the levels of calcium and mercury, they could look at different levels of the printing within the binding.

​Over all, the launch program was filled with demonstrations of the new research tools and discussions about the nature and future of the digital humanities. Dr. Edmond noted that historical research is many things, but it is never old-fashioned. CENDARI will undoubtedly contribute to pushing historical research to engage with the technological advancements of the 21st century.

Drew Thomas is the Digital Developer for the Network for the Study of Caroline Minuscule. He is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews studying the rise of the Wittenberg print industry during Martin Luther’s Reformation. His other projects include being the Communications Coordinator for the Universal Short Title Catalogue and a regular writer for Pubs & Publications, the PhD blog of the University of Edinburgh. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewBThomas

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