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Research Graduate School for the Humanities

The digital medieval manuscript

approaches to digital codicology
PhD ceremony:Ms S. (Suzette) van Haaren
When:May 09, 2022
Supervisors:A.S. (Ann-Sophie) Lehmann, Prof, prof. dr. K.M. Rudy
Co-supervisor:dr. B.S. (Babette) Hellemans
Where:Academy building RUG
The digital medieval manuscript

It may be familiar sight: a medieval image, sometimes accompanied by a joke or funny text, scrolls past on your Instagram or Twitter feed. The meme-ing of medieval material is a popular social media pastime, as testified by the Reddit page r/MedievalArtMemes or the KB’s Medieval Meme Generator. Medieval manuscripts are digitised and their images are spread all over the internet and used in modern contexts. Medieval memes give new meaning to old images, allowing them to gain a whole new life in digital environments. We see these handwritten and beautiful books more often as digital images on our screens, than we see them in their parchment form. The digitisation of medieval manuscripts has far-reaching effects for the way we encounter and use these ancient books, and consequently for the way we perceive, keep, preserve, and understand them.

This thesis reflects on how medieval manuscripts function and move as cultural heritage objects in an increasingly digital culture. Not only looking at how digital medieval manuscripts are used in online environments, this study also investigates cultural and social consequences of making, presenting and keeping these digital objects. Using three case studies, each covering one manuscript and its digital counterpart(s), it traverses themes ranging from digital photography and metadata creation, making medieval memes, to the sustainability of the digital. This thesis reflects on what it means to digitise, and how this reverberates in contemporary culture. With that, it reveals the importance, the autonomy and the beauty of the digital medieval manuscript.