Dylan’s Blog Post #1

##Exercise 1

For this exercise, I chose to look at the Cambridge University Digital Library
as well as the The British Library’s repository of manuscripts.

###Finding the Manuscripts
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly: How easy is it to find each library’s collection of medieval manuscripts? I located both sites via this guide, but what if I were approaching the websites from the libraries’ landing pages?
####Cambridge The user interface for this page was very friendly, presenting the user with some simple and avanced search tools as well as categorized collections. However, this project was only started in 2010, and the library has about two millennia’s worth of content to digitize; thus, the collection is somewhat lacking.
The categorization system is at points too narrow, and at others too broad. One collection offers “Music,” another “Christian Works,” while yet another is solely dedicated to “notebooks kept by the soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon.” In my opinion, they need to re-think this system. For instance, there’s no one category for medieval manuscripts.
Ultimately, I was able to find many in the “Christian Works” section, as well as the Royal Library, and thankfully the search tool allows you to search across categories. Assuming one finds a manuscript one’s looking for, the image viewer is actually quite good. I was particularly impressed by the metadata accompanying the text. For the Roman de la Rose, this includes collation, binding, script, foliation, incipit and explicit, and a bibliography, among other data. It seems as though they put particular care into including metadata with the text, although this has the trade-off that adding new manuscripts to the repository might be a slow process.

####British Library The digital repository is much easier to find in this case. You can access the collection of manuscripts easily from the main page. The search is straightforward, allowing the user to input a keyword as well as define a date range (very useful if you’re only interested in a specific era) and returns results with a shelf mark and thumbnail. Unlike Cambridge, the image viewer allows you to view either one page, “open-book” style, or folio. Still, it lacks the comparison functionality of Mirador to accomodate more than one text.
This library also lacks the in-depth metadata that Cambridge provides. However, it also has many more texts as a whole. Perhaps these are also related; it’s difficult to add a great deal of texts and also include comprehensive data on each one. This makes it more difficult to find texts, though, since you have fewer tags with which to locate a text, and you’re searching in a bigger database.

Overall, I think the two repositories take two different and valid approaches; Cambridge seems to have relatively few books, placed in easily-perusable categories, with a great deal of data on most of them. The British library has more books, but with less data and therefore more difficulty in finding specific ones. It seems to me that the Cambridge database’s use of “collections” almost make the manuscripts into museum pieces rather than texts with which you’re invited to interact, whereas the British Library is more of a useful tool that provides a great deal of content easily.


17 January 2017