Crowdsourcing the Medieval Text: New Avenues for Examining Leaves and Fragments
By Micah Erwin
Paper given at the 39th Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies, held at St. Louis University on October 13, 2012
Abstract: Historically, medieval manuscript leaves and fragments have received considerably less attention from academics and librarians than bound codices. Here in the United States institutions that hold rare materials are more likely to have medieval fragments or leaves in their collections than whole volumes. Despite this, little research has been carried out on such objects and even less has been done to survey, arrange, and describe them. Dramatic growth in the use of online social media, image hosting sites, and blogs has opened up a new and potentially fruitful avenue for extracting and sharing information about leaves and fragments. These websites have the capacity to bring together communities of researchers and to enable those communities to study and share images. This paper will argue that while formal institutional websites are useful for highly professional and specialized projects, broader and more popular social media and photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and Facebook offer the potential to provide an easier and more widely accessible platform for exploring (i.e. crowdsourcing) medieval manuscript fragments. Drawing from personal experience and research, I will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing image hosting websites and online social media to interpret, share, and add value to such objects.