Sunday Book-Thought 78

The history of writing serves to remind us that language continually strives to find diverse material representations (the illuminating reflections on this theme by Armando Petrucci are extremely valuable here), and tries to give new forms to space in order to extend its expressive potentialities. Illuminated manuscripts stand to warn us how risky it is to look at pictures out of their context, enlarging them or reproducing them in various forms which can only confuse a reader as to their true nature. Is it wise to disembody or reduce to simple letters of the alphabet the illuminated capitals when these served as an interpretative thread of the text they introduced?
– Luca Toschi, ‘Hypertext and Authorship’, in The Future of the Book, ed by Geoffrey Nunberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 169-207 (p. 191).

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Who even uses catalogues anymore?

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in an undergraduate research forum at St. Michael’s College (U of T), and presented my independent research from last semester. At first, I didn’t think it was possible to turn a manuscript catalogue into a research poster, but I proved myself wrong! I chose to focus my poster on the barriers I had to face while researching and writing my catalogue. In particular, I addressed physical inaccessibility, format and content inconsistency, and language (foreign and technical), although there are numerous other barriers that exist. I strayed away from outside research, and made this poster just about my personal experiences. In short, it wasn’t very scholarly in the way that the research forum judges had expected the posters to be.

And then I ended up winning the prize for Best Poster in the Humanities.

Sure, this win was exciting because winning feels nice. It was also exciting, though, because it reassured me that what I’ve chosen to do with my life still matters, even in non-codicologists’ eyes. As I stood by my poster, dozens of people approached me to ask questions and learn more about my research. I was told more than once that “I don’t know anything about this stuff, but it seems really cool.”

My poster made people care about manuscript studies, even if only temporarily. It was an incredible feeling. This, my friends, is exactly why I want to spend my life in academia.

Because my research poster is relevant to this blog, I thought it would be neat to share it here. Readers, how do you think we can overcome the numerous barriers to undergraduate manuscript studies and catalogue use?

Click here to view my poster:
Barriers to Undergraduate Manuscript Studies and Catalogue Use