Limitations and ethical implications of digitizing medieval manuscripts

British Library - Medieval manuscriptLimitations and ethical implications of digitizing medieval manuscripts

Heather F. Ball (Queens College, City University of New York)

Library Student Journal: April (2011)


Digital technologies have found a use in almost every aspect of scholarly research and communication. Though the Internet proves advantageous by increasing access, it can also be detrimental to researchers. By solely encountering medieval manuscripts through a computer screen, users sacrifice the visceral experience that accompanies viewing the actual manuscript. This article seeks to identify limitations and ethical implications encountered when digitizing medieval manuscripts.


Digitization has indisputably revitalized medieval collections held in cultural heritage institutions on a global scale. Through the advances in technology, it is now possible to visit collections remotely, and institutions from opposite sides of the globe can collaboratively launch a collection’s exhibition via a single website. As Thomas Friedman (2005) theorizes, the world is becoming flat—information and access are less constricted temporally, and information is accessible to a larger audience through a democratizing medium: the Internet. Bernardo Huberman (2009) argues that the general notion of libraries, once unique repositories of knowledge, has been irreversibly changed by the Internet and social networks. He posits that the World Wide Web has swiftly “transformed forever the way people think of information and the ways in which they access it” (p. 63). Now, information held within medieval manuscripts is not limited to the physical page, but can be interactively and independently indexed, collated, and searched for content once digitized.

Click here to read this article from Library Student Journal

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