This website has been established as a forum for matters relating to the mass digitization of manuscript and other original textual materials preserved in the UK. The impulse for this is the recognition that digitization has the potential to transform scholarship throughout the humanities. We focus here on manuscripts surviving from before 1500, and on the first link in the digitization chain: the digital imaging of the original manuscripts themselves. The rapid maturing of digital photography, from extremely expensive devices capable of taking only a few pictures an hour (or a day!) to reasonably-priced devices capable of taking several hundred images an hour, has brought into prospect the possibility that whole collections of manuscripts might be photographed digitally (indeed — dare we say it — every manuscript in the UK dating from before 1500). Clearly, our discussions will be relevant to later and other original texts, and we hope others might learn from us, as we from them.

This prospect raises many questions: can mass digitization be done to a worthwhile standard, at a reasonable cost, and in conformancy with requirements for proper handling of the manuscripts? who is to set priorities? what agreements will be necessary between manuscript-holding institutions, and between them and funders, to make this possible? how are the images to be captured, stored and made available? what of rights management; who is to pay for it? how would this iniative impact on existing library policies? Elsewhere on this site you will find our attempts to explore these issues:

  • The record of a workshop, held at Kings College London, on 5 June 2006, which canvassed these issues.
  • Links to relevant sites.
  • More to come!

We have established a JISCMAIL discussion group, to canvas issues among all those interested, and to notify our progress. You can join this by going to Type "MASS-DIGITIZATION" into the 'Find lists - by list name' box on the right, and press 'Go'. Select 'Join or leave the list' from the next page, and fill in the details.

Finally: who are 'we'? We began as Peter Robinson, of ITSEE, and Lorna Hughes and Marilyn Deegan, of the ICT Methods Network. We have already been joined by others; we hope to be joined by many more.

First mounted 14 June 2006; Revised 19 July 2006