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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 22, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 42
 
Grant Will Enhance Virtual Medieval manuscript Collection
By Pamela Higgins
Sheridan Libraries

A pioneering effort to digitize versions of one of the most popular romances of the Middle Ages, and to share digitized copies with students and scholars around the world, has won a $717,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to enhance and expand the project.

Begun in 1998 as a close collaboration between the Sheridan Libraries' Digital Knowledge Center and the Krieger School's Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Roman de la Rose project enables new approaches to medieval studies through the creation of digital surrogates, transcriptions, and text and image searching. Rather than travel thousands of miles to make comparisons of these texts, scholars can easily compare and study them online.

The Mellon Foundation funding will help create a board of advisers, underwrite a technical conference and support digitization of more versions of Roman de la Rose, a story of a dreamer pursuing love while encountering obstacles, adventures and life lessons along the way.

To date, Rose manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and Bodleian Library at Oxford University have been digitized, providing scholars an online environment for comparative analysis of works produced centuries apart, ranging in quality from commonplace to sumptuous presentation manuscripts.

"We have contributed directly to the transformation of scholarly research and practices in the initial phase of the Rose project, Winston Tabb, dean of university libraries, said. "One of the most exciting aspects of this award is that it will enable us to develop an integrated approach to preservation and access issues through the design of a repository, which will house the digital content and support its easy integration into learning environments.

"The Rose project has already become a teaching tool on a worldwide scale, said Stephen G. Nichols, the James M. Beall Professor of French and Humanities and coprincipal investigator on the project. "We are delighted to have the opportunity to continue our collaborations with researchers, librarians, technology specialists and museum professionals as we expand the riches of this global resource for the scholarly community.

Creating a joint board of scholars and technical experts will help the project further design a means for ongoing collaborative contribution to the site by qualified scholars and students from around the world; migrate the content to a better, repository-based system; connect the repository to learning systems; and add virtual manuscripts from different countries and chronological periods to enhance comparative analysis.

"The Roman de la Rose Web site has already proved extremely useful in both teaching and research, said Sylvia Huot, reader in medieval French literature at Cambridge University in England. "It allows students to compare the way that different manuscripts translate the text into visual imagery, to assess the impact of illustrations on a reader and to compare variant versions of the text. The new phase will make the site richer and much easier to use.

Grants from the Samuel H. Kress and Gladys Krieble Delmas foundations and the Getty Trust funded the earlier phase of Project Rose development. To visit the Rose site, go to rose.mse.jhu.edu.

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