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How to find us S. (Suzette) van Haaren, MA

S. van Haaren, MA

PhD student
S. van Haaren, MA

PhD project: Encoded parchment and Digital Sustainability. How digital materiality affects the representation, reproduction and preservation of medieval manuscripts

Supervisors: Prof. dr. Ann-Sophie Lehmann, dr. Babette Hellemans, prof. dr. Kathryn Rudy

Sandwich PhD with the University of St Andrews


The overall aim of my PhD project is to explore how digital technologies affect the reproduction, representation and preservation of medieval manuscripts. The dissertation offers a reflection on the way medieval manuscripts function and move as cultural (devotional, historical, archival heritage) artefacts in an increasingly digital society, and how this, in turn, is reflected in the objects themselves. I am interested to look at what digital facsimiles mean for the continued life of the manuscript and the way we deal with them. The research is set up from the assumption that manuscripts are dynamic objects that live long lives, containing traces and leaving traces of their interactions. They reflect their use and function, and the interrelation between object and its environment. New technologies, locations, interpretations and relationships form and reform the object, giving prominence to the dynamic nature of the manuscript’s materiality. Digital reproduction is one of the most impactful events in a manuscript’s life, because it offers a completely different perspective on the object. Think about the possibilities that digital tools offer us, the democratising platform, the networks that form online, and the potential fragmentation of these objects. To fully understand how we perceive the manuscript as modern cultural artefact we must look its whole life: how it has been handed down to us and how this affects its materiality, from the middle ages until now.

The project focuses on the overarching subjects of sustainability and preservation, fragmentation and unity, the importance of (digital) materiality, and the (historical) object-hood of the digital facsimile. With this the dissertation attempts to cover some important large themes considering the digitalisation of cultural heritage whilst looking at very specific case studies. The project thus aims to dissect myths of digital eternity and digital manuscript facsimiles as ultimate preservation and consider them in light of sustainability, limitations, degradation and complexity of digital matter. The manuscript as material and living object stands at its centre, considering ideas about function and use, embodiment, agency and performance.

It is my aim for the dissertation to reflect on the problems and questions posed, taking a qualitative approach without explicitly taking a stance pro- or anti digitalisation. I do not see the discussion about digitalisation of medieval manuscripts (and cultural heritage in a larger sense) merely as a squabble about pros and cons with a 'should-we' or 'should-we-not' at its centre, but rather as an undeniable development that needs better understanding and reflection.

Last modified:01 October 2018 11.31 a.m.

Contact information

Oude Boteringestraat 34
9712 GK Groningen
The Netherlands