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Editors’ Choice: Digital Humanities, Medievalism, and the Importance of Errors

Two weeks ago, I attended the Middle Ages in the Modern World conference in Lincoln (and gave a talk on medieval vs. ‘medieval’ names if you haven’t already read the recap of that), which included an extremely interesting paper by Bridget Ruth Whearty (Stanford), “Of Scribes and Digitizers: Modern Digitization Studio as Medieval Scriptorium”, in which she gave the audience an overview of the making of a digital medieval manuscript, in particular the painstaking processes that are in place to ensure that every single digital copy of every single manuscript leaf is presented in identical conditions to every other one. The lighting of the room is controlled, the camera is perfectly placed, there are constraints on what the technicians can wear while the digitization is taking place, etc. The same leaf can be photographed multiple times until an error-free version is obtained. The result is as close to the original as you can get, perfect in presentation — and also perfectly anonymous. And both these facts gave rise to critical discussion during the Q&A.

In particular, it was pointed out that, for a group of people who claim to understand and respect the importance of history, we can be remarkably bad at the keeping and documenting of our own history, in this case, the ‘history’ that is created in the context of digital humanities or digital medievalist projects, such as the digitization of a book.

Read More: Digital humanities, medievalism, and the importance of errors | Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources

This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Amanda Morton based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Catelynne Sahadath, Brian Refford, Lucy Appert, Sasha Frizzell, Ethan Miller, Diego Sierra, Anu Paul, and Read Brown