Conference update: Speaking at FOWA about the DMT

[This update comes from Monica Messaggi-Kaya, the DMT’s principal software developer and a front-end design expert at BDLSS. She has given us permission to adapt this post from her blog, and she has also shared her slides.]

I have worked at the Bodleian Libraries on the BDLSS department for a few years now. And inquiring about the Future of Web Design (FOWD) conference in January this year, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to speak on the Future of Web Apps (FOWA) in October. The FOWA conference has a “Rising Stars” track for people who are new to speaking but have great skills and passion to share.

Since I was working on the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit (DMT) project, I thought it would be great to talk about the journey and the challenges of putting this toolkit together considering the amazingly rich examples of manuscripts the Bodleian Libraries have.

I spoke about the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF); with the aim to use, develop and repurpose digital manuscripts in interesting and innovative ways. Highlighted the steps to work with IIIF, introducing the Image API with the demo at, and Presentation API explaining about the primary resources (Manifest > Sequence > Canvas > Content) and their properties.

I carried on talking about the DMT Journey so far as the toolkit itself is a large combination of tools, and the one I was working on was the online editor. I’ve mentioned the possibility of having Docker images to create the Image server needed to satisfy one of the steps to work with IIIF. Then the IIIF metadata compliance that we’re achieving using Manifest Factory (Python); exemplified the discovery step with the Digital Mushaf project – that reunites Qur’anic manuscripts held by four institutions, and showed that we’re using a Mirador viewer instance to display and combine all these manuscripts into one sequence.

During the presentation I spoke about the research of existent tools and libraries that was done, to name a few of them: Grunt, Node.js, jQuery, Karma, underscore.js, pubsub.js, handlebars.js, URI.js, mousetrap.js, ZeroClipboard.js, d3.js, state-machine.js, tinymce.js, qTip2, sinon.js, Jasmine, Istanbul, Travis. Also demonstrated some viewers available to display and zoom images (OpenSeadragon, Mirador, UniversalViewer).

I was able to show the mockup of the online editor and a few tests that I made trying to build our first Manifest editor online.

Finishing up the presentation, I was able to talk about our funded projects that represent a direct challenge and great examples on how the scholars could use our Manifest editor online:

It was a great experience, and considering a highly technical audience, this talk was received well, and had plenty of examples and JavaScript libraries for them to discuss and possibly use. Some of the feedback received was in the lines of:

“you made some already amazing manuscripts even look more interesting”.



Digital Mushaf: a new scholarly resource

This autumn, the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit team collaborated with the Bodleian’s Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Manuscripts to produce Digital Mushaf, a new scholarly tool. Digital Mushaf draws on the resources of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) to display a digital reconstruction of a mushaf, or codex of the Qu’ran, using fragments held by four different libraries: the Bodleian, the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), and the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel.

To gather the 149 original mushaf images in a single online location, we created a IIIF manifest, a document that specifies the locations and properties of a sequence or multiple sequences of images. The advantage of creating a IIIF manifest is that images hosted on any IIIF-compliant server can be brought together in any location. In the case of Digital Mushaf, we are pulling images from the Bodleian and the BnF; the Chester Beatty Library and the Herzog August Bibliothek lent us their images to digitize for this collaboration, while the BnF’s images are being hosted on the BnF’s own IIIF server. Once we had gathered the image URLs, putting the images into the correct sequence required the expertise of our scholarly collaborators, as the Bodleian’s fragments in particular had been bound incorrectly in the 16th century. When the manifest was complete, we fed it into an instance of Mirador, an open-source IIIF image viewer developed at Stanford and Harvard, which reads the manifest and pulls the images from their original locations at the Bodleian and the BnF in order to render them as a single multi-page item.

More information about the Digital Mushaf project can be found on the project blog.

Digital Teaching Tools: Armenian Codicology and Palaeography

Our fourth and final project chosen for funding will be Digital Teaching Tools: Armenian Codicology and Palaeography. The project will be led by Dr Emilio Bonfiglio, who is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, and by Robin Meyer, who is curator of the Bodleian Libraries’ forthcoming Armenian manuscripts exhibition (due to open in October 2015) and is also pursuing his doctoral research at the Faculty of Linguistics.

Robin and Emilio’s project will draw upon the Bodleian’s wonderful collection of Armenian manuscripts, which span a period of around 1000 years, and illustrate the development of script styles and page layouts. The project aims to create a manual of Armenian palaeography and codicology, which in Emilio and Robin’s words “has been a long-standing desideratum, and in digital form, showcasing the different forms of Armenian writing, manuscript hands, and different letterforms by juxtaposing relevant images, will serve as an excellent modern teaching tool and pedagogically sound introductory guide.”

The project will use individual pages from many manuscripts, and will help DMT to develop tools around codicology and palaeography which are key areas of digital engagement among manuscript scholars in all fields.

The Rota Dominice orationis Digitisation Project

The third of our DMT funded projects will be The Rota Dominice orationis Digitisation Project, led by Jennifer Shurville, a doctoral candidate in the History of Art department.

Jennifer’s project will focus, in her words, on “the thirteenth-century diagram known as Rota dominice orationis. This wheel diagram, centred on the central theological truth of the Pater noster prayer, consists of five revolving rings containing patterns of seven elements: the vices, the petitions of the Lord’s prayer, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the virtues and the Beatitudes. These in turn are broken down into further subdivisions. The diagram was widespread in the thirteenth century, found across England, France, Germany and Italy […]”.

The project will bring together copies of the diagram in various formats – large format single sheets, end pieces to roll manuscripts, fold-outs – and from various institutions, including the Bodleian, Harvard, The Morgan Library, Biblioteca Nationale (Naples), and the Vercelli Archivio Capitolore.

The Rota Dominice orationis will help DMT to develop functionality around the diagrammatic form, in different manuscript formats, and to consider how best to deliver and develop such diagrams in digital form.

Rolling History in Fifteenth-Century England

Our second project chosen for DMT funding will be Rolling History in Fifteenth-Century England, led by Alex Franklin and Daniel Sawyer, both currently doctoral candidates in medieval English in the Faculty of English.

In Alex and Daniel’s words, the project “aims to make selected fifteenth-century English history rolls, valuable sources for our understanding of later-medieval England’s sense of its past, more widely available as resources for researchers and teachers” focusing on late-medieval England’s “vogue for the copying of genealogical chronicles onto large rolls.”

Rolling History will help DMT to develop functionality around non-codex items, and will allow us to explore the ways in which digital scrolling can enable access to these long and unwieldy items that are hard to navigate in the traditional reading room. The project will be strongly focused by Alex’s research interests in the uses of history in fifteenth-century England and on the advantages of roll over codex and vice versa, and by Daniel’s research interests in the history of reading in medieval England, and the relationship between physical format and reading in particular.

The Apocalypse in Oxford

The first of our funded projects will be The Apocalypse in Oxford: Anglo-Norman Apocalypse Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library led by Dr Daron Burrows, Associate Professor of Medieval French, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages.

Daron’s project will focus on five richly illustrated and formally diverse manuscripts held by the Bodleian of the French prose Apocalypse, a translation of the Revelation of St John with accompanying commentary. In Daron’s words, “Through transcription and textual comparison, this project will shed new light on the transmission and organisation of this important yet critically neglected text, while at the same time making accessible to students, researchers, and the general public some of the most visually impressive works that the Middle Ages has to offer.”

The Apocalypse in Oxford will help DMT to develop tools around the comparison of multiple manuscripts of the same text, presented together with transcriptions. The project will define an important direction for DMT – the use of digital manuscripts as the basis for both the process of digital editing and as a platform for the resulting digital editions.

We are also delighted to highlight the strength of Anglo-Norman studies in Oxford, home to the only specialist undergraduate and graduate courses in the subject in Europe and also to The Anglo-Norman Text Society, of which Daron is currently Secretary.

Digital Manuscripts Toolkit Funding Awards

We are delighted to announce the projects that we have chosen to fund through Digital Manuscripts Toolkit!

The four projects which have been awarded funding are:

  1. The Apocalypse in Oxford: Anglo-Norman Apocalypse Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Dr Daron Burrows, Associate Professor of Medieval French, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages
  2. Rolling History in Fifteenth-Century England, Alex Franklin & Daniel Sawyer, D. Phil. candidates in medieval English, Faculty of English
  3. The Rota Dominice orationis Digitisation Project, Jennifer Shurville, D. Phil. candidate, History of Art
  4. Digital Teaching Tools: Armenian Codicology and Palaeography, Dr Emilio Bonfiglio, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Oriental Studies & Robin Meyer, Bodleian Libraries’ Armenian Exhibition Curator and D. Phil. candidate, Faculty of Linguistics

These four projects will help is develop our toolkit from a range of disciplinary perspectives – Anglo-Norman, Medieval English & History, History of Art, Armenian Studies – and will offer the technical challenges associated with varying formats – illustrated, large and small, rolls, codices, diagrams, full manuscripts, individual pages – and areas of interest, including digital editing, historical methodology, visual representation, codicology, palaeography and teaching.

Congratulations to all involved! We look forward to working with you.

Individual posts about each project to follow.

DMT presentation and Q&A

For those of you interested in our Call for Proposals (closing date: 24 April 2015), there will be a Digital Manuscripts Toolkit presentation and Q&A session at the Centre for Digital Scholarship in the Weston Library at 11am on Friday 27 March.

We will outline the aims of the DMT project, demo some of the functionality of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), and will be available to answer questions on any aspect of the Call for Proposals.

We are offering a maximum of £5000 to fund projects by Oxford scholars which make use of digitised manuscripts from any period and from any geographical location, so if you are interested, please come along!

Digital Manuscripts Toolkit and IIIF

Digital Manuscripts Toolkit will work to the standards of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). So what is IIIF and why should we use it?

Digitized manuscripts, and other comparable cultural heritage materials, are increasingly becoming available online. However, such content is being made available through a great many different viewers, websites, and approaches. This leads to varied levels of quality, functionality and ease of access, and to lots of duplicated effort. IIIF seeks to address this problem.

The vision of IIIF is to use two Linked Data-based APIs (an Image API and a Presentation API) to allow reuse of content, creating a global network whereby institutions can share materials and allow innovative development.

In participating in IIIF, the Bodleian Libraries joins a network of important institutions worldwide, including Stanford, Harvard and Yale in the USA, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and C2RMF in Europe, and the British Library and the Wellcome Library in the UK.

We’re very excited to be exploring the possibilities that IIIF affords for Digital Manuscripts Toolkit. Excellent introductions to IIIF are available online, including a slideshare presentation by Rob Sanderson, Information Architect at Stanford University Libraries, and a YouTube presentation by Benjamin Albritton, Stanford’s Digital Medieval Projects Manager.

Introducing Digital Manuscripts Toolkit

The Bodleian Libraries have received a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a two-year project Building the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit.

Our aim is to produce an easy to use toolkit, with particular focus on the study and presentation of medieval manuscripts, which allow scholars to work with digital materials in innovative and exciting ways. The project’s toolkit will be based on the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), which is a collaborative and community-driven initiative to make image-based cultural heritage materials more accessible, usable, and interoperable.

We plan to get out and talk to scholars, both those working in Medieval Studies and in other fields, such as Early Modern Studies and Classics, to find out how they’d like to use image resources in their own research and teaching.

If you’re interested, we’d love to hear from you! Either leave a comment here or contact judith{dot}siefring{at}bodleian{dot}ox{dot}ac{dot}uk.