By Alan V. Murray
Paper given at the Yeongweol Yonsei Forum (2011)
Introduction: One of the major problems in the study and teaching of the cultural heritage of medieval Europe is the sheer magnitude of the volume of published research. Despite economic constraints in recent years, the number of publications in printed or in electronic form continues to increase. The sciences, medicine and other disciplines have largely gone over to using English as their main language of dissemination, and online publishing as the preferred medium. By contrast the various humanistic disciplines relevant to the cultural heritage defined by European Medieval Studies remain relatively conservative: dissemination is still predominantly in the form of print (or print plus electronic versions), while a very large proportion of research is published in languages other than English.
Keeping track of this huge output is of course not a new problem, and in the past, two main approaches have been followed. In general, all individual monographs have been catalogued by national libraries, and so their library records generally provide uniform cataloguing within a given library system. However, one significant weakness is that the main classification systems employed, such as the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress systems, have been designed to describe the totality of human knowledge and so often do not offer the level of detail or sophistication desired by medievalists. A more serious point, however, is that cataloguing undertaken by libraries is restricted to the level of the publication, rather than component parts of a publication, and so individual articles within periodicals, or essays within volumes of multi-authored works such as conference proceedings are not separately classified. Books are usually the products of many years of research; by contrast, it is the papers (articles or essays) which present the newest findings of research and thus represent the cutting edge of scholarship.