IIIF at the Beinecke Library

On August 1, 2019 by Michelle Warren

A few weeks ago I participated in a workshop on “Medieval Manuscripts and Interoperability.” Led by Lisa Fagin Davis (Medieval Academy of America) and Ben Albritton (Stanford University) and hosted by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the three-day workshop aimed to make us more fluent in the technical affordances of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) for research. Some record of how it went is on the Twitter.com hashtag #MirMed2019.

My goal was to learn more about digital annotation for my current book project. We also spent a morning with some of the medieval manuscripts: by chance, I was assigned MS 590, a copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century Historia regum Britanniae—the central text of my first book, History on the Edge: Excalibur and the Borders of Britain. This fortuitous encounter gave me the opportunity to reflect on the long history of translation that lies behind Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS 80—the catalyst of my current book. Beinecke MS 590 gave me much needed inspiration to “connect the dots” across the chapters, which analyze how digital technologies disrupt distinctions between book history and literary history.

I also came away with some lessons for Remix!

  • With three days of uninterrupted focus, I made time to release a new spreadsheet for our Reimagine History project
  • As the digital representation of manuscripts has come to focus on interoperability, the Dartmouth Brut is increasingly “orphaned” on the internet. First digitized and published online in 2009, the bespoke interface is itself becoming a historical artifact.
  • Nonetheless, the Dartmouth Brut is one of only 13 MSS in the corpus that has been completely digitized at this time. And of those, 10 are currently hosted with IIIF manifests that enable interoperability.
  • An additional 23 MSS are represented by digital fragments—sometimes a single leaf, sometimes several. These selections tend to feature decorative elements or illustrations.
  • When it comes to corpus-based research, it can be just as difficult to undertake broad comparisons with digital copies as it is with analog copies
  • Interoperable repositories really change the concept of manuscript research, shifting focus from “looking for a particular book” to “looking for a particular type of image.” With Remix, we need to do some research on the impact of search functions with Biblissima and other aggregators of interoperable images.
  • I didn’t know that it’s possible to self-archive images on Archive.org! We should consider doing this with the files that are currently in SharedShelf. I experimented with an image of Deborah Howe’s experimental book cover.
  • I didn’t get the chance to handle any of the Beinecke’s 10 Brut manuscripts, so may have to go back sometime!

I definitely expanded my technical skills:

  • IIIF overview
  • Introduced to GitHub
  • Learned how to use a text editor, Atom
  • Helped the group solve a mysterious error that Windows users had when trying to Install the Simple Annotation Server. Even after installing Java, we kept getting “no Java error” in the command line. Turns out you need to tell the operating system where the Java is.
  1. Find the path to the Java folder. Unless you did something special, it’s C:\Program Files\Java\jdk-11.0.3\bin
  2. Right click over “This PC” to open Properties
  3. Click Advanced System Settings
  4. Click Environment Variables
  5. Under “User Variables,” highlight Path and click Edit
  6. Click New
  7. Past in the path, C:\Program Files\Java\jdk-11.0.3\bin
  8. Click OK
  9. Under “System Variables,” highlight Path and click Edit
  10. Click New
  11. Past in the path, C:\Program Files\Java\jdk-11.0.3\bin
  12. Click OK
  13. Click OK and get back to work!

Comments are closed.