Monday, January 27, 2014

New Technology - Luv It, But ...

  Starting many many years ago, I made periodic excursions around England and parts of Europe photographing medieval stuff. This was originally to provide teaching materials for the family medievalist who liked lots of visuals in his lectures and tutorials. In those days, photographs were made on little strips of transparent material. You got it right in the camera or it was no good. Heaven knows what I thought I was going to do with about 5000 of the things.
  I crawled under pews, got very good at bracing myself for long exposures in places where you weren't allowed to use flash and found strange and wondrous things in dusty places behind the organ.
  The only trouble with those little strips of transparent material is that they go off, even with the best of care. Over a number of years, once the technology was available, we got them digitised. First professionally, then I did them myself. I stored them on CDs, because that was the way of the future. Then the word got out that CDs are not archival, so I copied them all on to the biggest plugin hard drive I could find. I think it was 300 gig at the time. Then the cloud came into being so they all got copied again to Dropbox. Surely they're safe now.
  Fortunately I entered all the information into a database as I went, at least the most important bits of information, or all would be at sea by now. But somehow I still had a great unsorted mass of images from which the odd few have been plucked for various purposes.
  I have just discovered Flickr. Kid in a lolly shop. They can be re-archived in the great fluffy mass in the sky, annotated, organised into sets and collections, marked on a Google map and shared with whoever is interested. Only trouble is I think I'm going to have to live to be 150 to get through all the work of it. And I did promise to do some more paleography as well. And I've got all those photographs of art and artifacts from Borneo from my PhD days, and the old family photos that were given to me that are all jumbled up in a box. I better eat my veggies and get some exercise. It's gonna be a long old age.
  Have a squizz at There are just a few pictures of misericords there right now, but that's only the beginning. Watch this space.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Year's Resolution, Right

  Since trying to get my real life / cyberlife balance a bit more in synch, I can hopefully get back to a bit more medieval paleography and beaut stuff like that. I hereby promise that I will spend less time scrolling through amusing pictures of anthropomorphic rabbits and the like in digitised medieval manuscripts on Twitter, and more time on using some of these ever increasing resources to do something useful, if perhaps less entertaining.
  Making a start I have replaced one (Yes one, count it) old black and white British Library image of uncial script with a colour image downloaded from their website with the marvellous new provisions that you can play with it however you like. No bunnies or exquisite Virgins, but much more real and lifelike image of the text. I will proceed from here.
  Now I just have to think about what to do about those now grotty old Flash exercises with the crappy photographic reproduction. Do I just do them all over again with my antique version of Flash (which miraculously still actually works) or is there something easier and quicker? Suggestions gratefully received.

Friday, January 10, 2014

We Get More Medieval Every Day

  Long, long time ago I put a post on this blog about how a web page is more like a medieval manuscript than like the page of a printed book. The reverse evolution continues. Now a medievalist is telling us that Twitter, and especially live tweeting in conferences, is like the marginal annotations in a medieval manuscript, in the blog In The Middle. I love the notion that modern media are releasing us from the tyranny of the authority of the printed word and taking us back to the chaotic threads of medieval thought.
  I do wonder what some of those stern old academics of yore would have thought about it. You know, the ones whose conference papers were circulated with "Draft only. Not for publication or circulation." printed all over them. Then the book of the conference wouldn't come out for another five years and everyone would have forgotten about it.