The Iter Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Collaboration between Information Specialists and Subject Specialists in the Arts and Humanities
Beghtol, Clare, Journal of Digital Information Management
Abstract: The arts and humanities have received less attention in discussions of the uses of electronic information because their particular characteristics do not appear to lend themselves readily to collaboration through technology. This paper describes some aspects of the Iter Project, which is a web-based project that utilizes extensive collaboration between scholars and students of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and scholars and students in Information Studies. Collaboration takes places at all levels of the Project--between the project partners and between professional and student staff members. Examples of some of the collaboratory procedures for one aspect of the Iter Project, the Iter Bibliography, are described. Extensive collaboration ensures quality control for records in the Bibliography and for the management of the Bibliography database itself. The Project is a model for cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration, negotiation across boundaries, and the creation of excellent records for humanities scholars and research projects.
Key words: Web collaboratory, Iter gateway, web information exchange
1. Arts and Humanities: Characteristics and Projects
The arts and humanities have received less attention than the sciences and social sciences in discussions of web-based collaboratory projects because the artistic and humanistic disciplines exhibit characteristics that appear antithetical to the cooperative uses of electronic technologies. Research in the arts and humanities is often carried out by individual scholars, not by teams, and the work of these scholars often depends upon unique materials and objects that can be accessed only in specialized archives, museums and libraries. Such materials include manuscripts, cultural artifacts, original musical scores, architectural drawings, medical instruments and artworks such as sculptures and paintings. In addition, indexes for the literatures of arts and humanities fields are often incomplete and dependent on volunteer indexers who happen to have ready access to the specialized journals and materials of the particular field. The interdisciplinary character of much of the literatures of the arts and humanities also complicates the compilation of exhaustive indexes because important materials may be found in collections devoted to several different disciplines.
These characteristics of the arts and humanities have, however, been addressed in a number of web projects. For example, multi-media representations of museum objects and other cultural artifacts can be seen at the Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO) (http:// www.amico.org/home.html). Guides, catalogues and images of manuscript collections are found, for example, at the Perdita Project: Early Modern Women's Manuscript Collection (http://human. ntu.ac.uk/research/perdita/ index.html), at Digital Scriptorium: A Prototype Image Database and Visual Union Catalog of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts (http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/ Scriptorium/) and at The Medici Archive Project (http:// www.medici.org). A example of a comprehensive index to multi-disciplinary materials is Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index (http://haverford.edu/librarry/ reference/mschaus/mfi/whatis.html), which indexes print materials about women, sexuality, and gender during the Middle Ages. Thus, scholars and researchers in the arts and humanities are beginning to become more familiar with electronic information sources, and the genesis and development of projects of these kinds warrants exploration. This paper describes the Iter Project as a collaboration between scholars, researchers and students of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and scholars, researchers, students and professionals in the area of Information Studies.
2. The Iter Project
As its Latin name implies, the Iter Project is a non-profit project designed to provide a digital path or gateway to print and electronic materials in all formats pertaining to the European Middle Ages and Renaissance (defined as 400-1700 CE) (http://www. …