Where is the BRUT?

On November 20, 2019 by Madeline Miller

Author: Madeline Miller

My first Remix project focused on assembling and cleaning data centered around one question: where is the Brut? Armed with a list of previously assembled call numbers, collection names, and library locations, I set out to create an updated list of Brut manuscripts and their metadata. Michelle had found it odd that the original Imagining History project hadn’t included links to the manuscripts’ libraries, but we soon understood better why they might have left these out…

The main difficulty in tracking down the Bruts was figuring out the different library website organizations and search systems. Wendel Cox, the Dartmouth Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian, provided some research tips, but ultimately every library would be a little different and it was a matter of figuring out how each one was organized.

Broken website links and outdated information provided an additional challenge. One of the newer links I had collected broke before I even finished the process of updating the links. In tracking down the new link, it turned out that the website had updated and the old link had broken as a result of that update.

There were other exciting sources of confusion along the way. One Brut was held by a private collector. I was excited to track down a reference to her in a book collector’s organization, but it turned out to be her obituary. There was no record of where her collection items had gone, and that Brut was unable to be located.

A secondary part of my task was tracking down digital versions of the Brut. In some cases, this was an easy part of the process. Some sites had the digital version directly linked to from the library record (sending thanks to those libraries that chose to format it this way, it made my work much easier). However, sometimes the digital record seemed to exist, but would not be accessible. One library website said that there was a digital version available, but the links one would expect to lead to a digital version did not, in fact, actually lead to a digital version. In another, digital records existed that used to be publicly available, but there was no link. In contacting the librarian, they said that they would share individually with a researcher who required it for a project, but they had no publicly available version at that time.

Michelle comments: “Dartmouth’s own Brut illustrates how library catalogues are not set up for either manuscripts or their digital copies. Some time ago, I made a special request to the catalogue librarians that the link to the digital Brut be added to the manuscript record in the catalogue–but the link doesn’t go directly there. Instead, it goes to another library catalogue results page, which in turn can link to the digital site, but only if you figure out to click on “book” and scroll past the invitation for interlibrary loan requests. You could also find yourself back at the “print publication,” that is, the manuscript in Rauner! This catalogue record has several other interesting features, from the perspective of a medievalist. We will be thinking a lot more about metadata schemes as we develop the Reimagine History database.”

While there were many setbacks, there were also many excellent websites and guides that made their searches and organization intuitive for a “non-expert”. Designing sites that are user friendly, easy to navigate, and make related content such as a digitized version easily found makes a huge difference in the time that it takes to discover and track content. To all those currently working on improving user navigation in their archives- thank you!

The latest results of all this library record searching were released a few months ago!

Re-Imagining History, Release 2.0

 

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