The Handschriftenportal (Manuscripts Portal) is being developed into an online platform to provide metadata, descriptive information and images on manuscripts in German collections. This website aims to become the centre of research for scholars and other individuals interested in the manuscript collections of German institutions.
The Handschriftenportal is a collaborative project that is being carried out by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), the Universitätsbibliothek Leipzig (Leipzig University Library), the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich (Bavarian State Library) and the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel (Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel). Click here for more information on the individual project partners. The detailed project description from the funding proposal can be viewed here (PDF, German only).
Both scholars and institutions holding manuscript collections work with the same source material, namely manuscripts: Manuscripts as handwritten cultural heritage objects that are to be described, presented and examined. This new virtual presentation and workspace will bridge the gap between scholarly research and the detailed description of the historical collections carried out by the holding institutions.
The Handschriftenportal is being developed for the research interests of qualified scholars, aspiring scholars, students, the staff of special collections and members of the public.
The aim of the Handschriftenportal project is to create a new, central web portal for the manuscript collections of German institutions.
What exactly does this mean?
1. Central access
- One central access point for all manuscripts held at German institutions, across regions and institutions. The Handschriftenportal will ensure that all data is presented in a standardized and coherent way. Therefore, it will offer a unique service not only for academic research on manuscripts but also for every institution holding manuscript collections as well as for individuals from the public.
- All types of information on a manuscript available in one location. Basic metadata sets, the so-called Kulturobjektdokumente (culture-object documents (KOD/COD) will hold key information on each object. They will serve as the central reference point for all descriptions, digital copies, annotations and external references and so enable a clear presentation of search results.
- Two functions, one location. Descriptive information and information on digital copies are to be collected and (if possible) presented in a single location allowing the user to work with this data in a simple and comfortable manner. Modern technological standards such as the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) and the Mirador viewer will ensure the best possible integration of all available data.
2. Innovative workspace for research and personalised collections
- User-friendly interface. The wealth of information on manuscripts is to be made available for research in a format that is intuitive to use and allows a straightforward user experience. The Handschriftenportal will not only function as a search engine, but also will also provide a fully equipped workspace that users enjoy working in.
- Exchanging scholarly work will be facilitated and research results will be made accessible to the public as soon as possible:
- Interfaces enabling the import and export of data will allow the easy integration and reuse of descriptive information and metadata by institutions holding manuscript collections and scholarly projects.
- Users will also be able to amend and improve existing descriptions or to contribute new findings. Such ‘annotations’ will be published as digital micro-publications. This also secures the copyright for the respective publishers.
- Use of linked open data. This will enable the flexible reuse of data by the national and international community.
The Handschriftenportal will be developed in two phases, each lasting three years. So far, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has granted funding for phase one.
Phase 1 | Setup of the Handschriftenportal and releasing a beta version
As the Handschriftenportal is a completely new project, the first three years (2018–2021) will be dedicated to developing the front end for the presentation and creating a cohesive technical basis for storing data (‘central record’) including interfaces for importing and adding new metadata on manuscripts. A test environment was released in 2021, which allows for preliminary testing and helps determine how effective and useful the website’s features are.
In addition to these technical developments, the metadata currently available on Manuscripta Mediaevalia will be reviewed and improved. In particular, a large quantity of digital full texts will be extracted from existing printed manuscript catalogues and the corresponding metadata will be generated and supplemented. A newly developed data model will form the basis for all improvements.
Phase 2 | Further development of components and setup of a virtual workspace
A second project phase is to follow the release of the first fully operational version of the Handschriftenportal. If the project continues to receive funding by the DFG, phase 2 will commence in 2022 and will concern itself with adding advanced features into the Handschriftenportal.
More in-depth data curation and standardisation is planned, including information which goes beyond the core metadata. The system architecture is to be expanded. This will primarily involve the development of a ‘virtual workspace’ in which registered users can take notes and work on their own material (transcriptions, links, etc.), amend and make suggestions for the descriptive data available for a manuscript and share and publish their personal research results. A platform for publishing will also be developed for catalogues of manuscripts.
Finally, the DFG guidelines for cataloguing manuscripts will be adapted to current practices. Thus, the guidelines will be updated to to meet the requirements of the digital age.