The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (BAV), in conjunction with Stanford University Libraries, has carried out a three-year project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project aims to demonstrate, among the advantages of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) for manuscripts, how the annotation level is a fundamental innovation for the study of contents: transcriptions, comments, comparative analysis of texts and images.
The BAV holds some 80,000 manuscripts, one of the world’s largest and most important collections of such materials. To date, 18,000 of these manuscripts have been digitized and put online using IIIF. Thanks to the funds received, the BAV has implemented a project to enrich the digital delivery of these materials by annotating some exemplary manuscripts with scholarly analysis.
To meet this challenge, the Library has promoted a new perspective to the study of manuscripts by means of web communication and IIIF. The Library wants to engage the visitors to its website on the possibilities for using these annotated manuscripts in IIIF by providing tools for discovering and comparing digital materials.
In its essential lines, a thematic pathway is a sort of exhibit, showcasing digital contents in IIIF, composed by three different kinds of information:
1) A general description (introduction, historical information, etc) of the chosen theme. This text, enriched with many visual elements, is provided in English and Italian;
2) Descriptive and structural metadata and a curatorial narrative for each manuscript;
3) Annotations / comments / in-depth analysis about detailed parts of a manuscript (e.g. texts, comments, illuminations, etc.) and transcriptions of units of information.
The exhibits are:
Latin Classics (The Evolution and Transmission of Texts of Specific Works);
Vatican Palimpsests (Digital Recovery of Erased Identities);
The Library of a 'Humanist Prince' (Federico da Montefeltro and His Manuscripts).
The Project Overview exhibit shows all the selected digital manuscripts, from all the thematic pathways, and their related contents (metadata and annotations) discoverable through faceted and keyword search.
The resulting web-based historiography of a selection of the BAV’s most significant manuscripts, ones heavily consulted and objects of scholarly attention over the centuries, will provide new insights and new stimuli for further engagement by scholars and students everywhere.