Call for Papers – Archive Journal Special Issue: “Digital Medieval Manuscript Cultures”

CFP Archive Journal Special Issue: “Digital Medieval Manuscript Cultures”
Deadline: 20 May 2016

In medieval manuscript studies, an important feature of the “digital turn” has been the creation of digital surrogates. Until recently, this activity has taken one of two forms: either the digitization of major categories of manuscripts (such as the Royal Manuscripts at the British Library) or the digitization of a single manuscript (or small groups of manuscripts) holding a particularly significant canonical literary work such as the Beowulf manuscript or the Hengwrt manuscript of the Canterbury Tales. As new projects explore further possible areas of development, such as the “distant reading” of large quantities of manuscript images or the potential of digital paleography, the digital surrogate promises to become increasingly important in medieval studies.

This several-decades push for digitization carries significant implications for the future of medieval manuscript studies as well as medieval studies more broadly. On the one hand, digital facsimiles of medieval manuscripts make it easier for scholars, students, and wider publics to explore manuscripts and place medieval books alongside the literatures, history, art, and culture of the middle ages in and beyond Europe. On the other hand, digital surrogates are increasingly treated by some students and researchers as fully equivalent to the physical manuscript. And yet, digitization could be seen as the latest iteration of a process of copying that has always attended medieval manuscripts (e.g., modern facsimiles done by hand, or using photography or microfilm). Seen in this light, digitization might not necessarily represent a radical departure in the history of medieval manuscript production, compilation, or dissemination.

At the center of the debates about access and preservation, historical continuity and radical rupture, one thing is clear: the ways in which librarians, publishers and scholars create and use digitized manuscripts need to be critically aware and historically informed. For this special issue of Archive Journal (to be released in late 2016), we seek contributions from scholars, archivists, librarians, curators, and technologists that address the current practices and theories shaping the (re)production of digital medieval manuscript culture as well as the larger possibilities or limits of “digital manuscript cultures” today. We welcome essays — as well as interviews, case studies, or other formats beyond the essay — of 3,000 to 5,000 words: image, audio, video, and multimedia formats of approximate equivalent size are also welcome.

Please contact guest editors Michael Hanrahan ( and Bridget Whearty ( with any questions. Submissions due by 20 May 2016 to An open access, peer-reviewed journal, Archive Journal seeks content that speaks to its diverse audience that includes librarians, scholars, archivists, technologists, and students.

Contributions might include, but are not limited to, consideration of the following:

-How is the digital shift in medieval manuscript studies to be theorized?

– What are the cultural, social, institutional, and political implications of the process of digitization?

– (How) does digitization reinforce existing canonicities and/or open up new materials for research?

– What are the roles of non-subject-specialist and subject specialists in digital medieval manuscript culture? What kinds of expertise are necessary in this domain? What communities are useful in augmenting the conversations surrounding digital medieval manuscript culture?

– Does digitization transform the relationship between library, curator, scholar, and wider readership, or does it simply restate long-standing relationships and power structures?

-What are the advantages of and problems with the labor of digitization?

– What are the implications for medieval studies more widely of the complex financial, commercial and IP issues surrounding digitization of manuscripts? How far should libraries divert resources from other activities towards digitization? How far is digitization enhancing scholarly access? Or is it creating a digital divide, in which certain resources are only available to the richest institutions?

– How transformative are recent developments such as smart phones and cameras for DIY digitization?

– How will digitization encourage or discourage greater awareness of the nature, forms, and issues of medieval manuscripts?

– How do technologically-advanced forms of digitization (including multi-spectral imaging and XRF imaging) affect our understandings of textual and bibliographical objects?

-How do new textual strategies (involving visualization, quantification, collective annotation, etc) affect scholarship and librarianship related to manuscripts?

-What are the implications or possibilities of computational approaches (including the application of quantitative or automated techniques) to medieval manuscript culture?

-How are librarians as well as scholars promoting the use of digital medieval manuscript repositories, teaching with/about them, working with projects built around them?

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