Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Manuscript Studies

Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Manuscript Studies

The University of Pennsylvania Libraries seek an innovative and energetic CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Manuscript Studies to play an integral role in the working life of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at Penn’s Van Pelt-Dietrich Library.

About the Position:

The Fellow will work on the SIMS team on several overlapping initiatives that explore both the materiality of medieval manuscripts as within a digital context and the possibilities of analyzing texts that the codices contain. These initiatives include:

  • Collation Visualization, a developing set of tools that enable scholars to virtually model and visualize the physical construction of manuscripts, relating the models to digital images and content
  • Digital Editions, a project to create image-based editions of medieval manuscripts from our own and other collections and publish them online. (Complete:, under development:
  • Manuscript Ebooks, an ongoing project to create ebooks (in the epub format) from manuscripts in OPenn and from other open source repositories.
  • Kalendarium, a project to build a crowd-sourced digital tool for collecting and identifying all the world’s medieval liturgical calendars. Begun at Penn, participants now include Stanford University and the Morgan Library as well as universities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Scotland.
  • Video Facsimiles, an experimental project to create high-quality videos of complete manuscripts and annotate them on textual content, visual content, and issues of materiality.
  • Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, currently in year two of a three-year, $300,000 grant from the NEH, which collects information about both the current and historic locations of the world’s pre-1600 manuscript books, creating a metacatalogue for finding and indexing the world’s manuscripts.
  • Video Orientations, short (1-2 minute) videos that briefly introduce our manuscripts to a general audience, which are stored in our scholarly repository, shared on social media, and linked to manuscript records in our OPAC.

The centerpiece of the Fellow’s work will be developing a new initiative in conjunction with SIMS staff and using Penn’s physical and digital resources. This initiative may be a single extended project, or several short-term projects. This would be a two-year position, funded by the Mellon Foundation (via CLIR) and the Penn Libraries.

Required Qualifications:

  • PhD in an area of medieval studies, with a concentration in the history of the book
  • Working knowledge of at least two non-English languages

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Experience with prior digital projects and some knowledge of programming

Fellow Responsibilities:

  • Contribute to the work of SIMS by supporting existing work as relevant to his or her interests, and develop his or her own initiative to work on during the course of the fellowship, as described above.
  • Participate in the ongoing digitization of medieval manuscripts through cataloging new manuscripts and generating metadata for existing manuscripts.
  • Assist the library in the adoption of new technologies for access to medieval material, including the International Image Interoperability Framework
  • Participate in the curation of special collections library data, including:
    • Curation of data in OPenn (our open access collection of digitized medieval manuscript data:
    • Development of a data repository in the library for data already available through Penn;
    • Curation of originally developed video content.
    • Participate in the acquisition of manuscript-related digital resources by Penn Libraries.
    • Make regular contributions to the Penn Libraries Manuscripts Tumblr (

At Penn the Fellow will receive mentoring and guidance from experts in the field. These include Dot Porter (Curator of Digital Research Services), Will Noel (Director – SIMS and Kislak Center), Doug Emery (Digital Content Programmer), Robert Ousterhout (Professor of History of Art, Director of the Center for Ancient Studies), as well as the wider Philadelphia history of the book community. The Fellow will be hosted by SIMS and have a joint appointment in the department of the History of Art at Penn. He or she will also participate in the programs of the Kislak Center and the department of the History of Art. These include organizing seminars on best digital practices, delivering lectures, and curating exhibitions. The Fellow will help plan, solicit contributions, and speak at the ninth annual Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age in 2017. This will provide the Fellow with a platform for presenting new developments in the field of medieval data curation, including those to which he or she has contributed.

About the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies and the Kislak Center

The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies is a teaching and research center devoted to the study of manuscripts in their material and digital forms. Housed in the Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, SIMS emphasizes hands-on work with unique witnesses to the past through the practical study of paleography, codicology, illumination, book arts, book history and the history of science and medicine, among many other fields. These primary source materials offer the Penn community and scholars everywhere unprecedented opportunities for collaboration in multidisciplinary research and scholarship. SIMS engages with regional and international institutions to foster study and use of the collection through lectures, symposia, publications, and digitization programs, and holds a firm commitment to develop and promote digital technologies that instruct and inspire scholars and students around the world through forward-thinking open-access policies.

The Kislak Center is the product of a $17 million renovation project and houses an extraordinary collection of rare books and manuscripts. Its mission is to bring collections, modern technology, and a wide base of patrons together to facilitate access to our common cultural heritage. The fellow will benefit from the combined skills and knowledge of the Kislak Center’s staff as well as faculty of the humanities departments, and the wider resources, of the University. Through its faculty and library resources, the University of Pennsylvania has long been at the forefront of book history and material text research, especially in the medieval and early modern period. The fellow will play a key role in developing this field through his or her research as an integral part of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies team.

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