Is This Your Book? What Digitization Does to Manuscripts and What We Can Think About It

Date: 12 June 2018
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Class of 1978 Pavilion, 6th Floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center, University of Pennsylvania
Lecturer: Dot Porter - Curator, Digital Research Services, University of Pennsylvania Libraries

What does digitization do to a medieval manuscript? We have many words to describe digitized manuscripts, including surrogate, facsimile, and avatar. Do the terms we use to refer to manuscripts online matter to how we perceive them? The online publication of digital images of complete medieval manuscripts is widespread and there is pressure put on libraries and museums to make their collections available online. Shared application programming interfaces (APIs) such as the IIIF ( are making it easier for institutions to serve their images. But what efforts are being made to ensure that the physicality of manuscripts come across in their online versions, and who is doing this work? In this lecture I will talk about what digitization means for how we think  about individual manuscripts, and how the mechanics of labor have a real impact on what we are able to get done within the context of library collections.