Digital representation of medieval manuscripts and their key elements – ranging from beautiful illuminations to ancient hidden diagrams and texts – pose significant challenges for the application of appropriate technologies that are efficient and useful to scholars. While users and institutions tend to focus on the technologies and their technical capabilities, one of the most significant elements in development of digital representations of manuscripts is the ability to share and archive digital data for philology, scholarship and preservation research and analysis. Large datasets need to be created and archived with clear storage and access procedures to ensure data integrity and full knowledge of the digital content. Only with common standards, work processes and access can advanced digitization technologies be used for the study of medieval manuscripts in libraries. These are being used in institutions ranging from the ancient library of St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai to the Library of Congress, Walters Art Museum and University of Pennsylvania Library in the United States. Wherever they are located, each is grappling with the challenges of collecting and preserving digital information from medieval manuscripts and codices for future generations.
These libraries use advanced camera systems to capture high-resolution images of manuscripts. Some of these institutions are also conducting spectral imaging studies of manuscripts with advanced collection and digital processing to reveal erased information – such as the earliest copies of Archimedes diagrams and treatises – without damaging the upper layer of text and artwork. These technologies yield large collections of quality digital images for access and study, but the data that becomes the digital counterpart must be effectively stored, managed and preserved to be truly useful for study. Integrating complex sets of digital images and hosting them on the Web for global users poses a complex set of challenges.