When we say that we “scroll” through a webpage or use the abbreviation “@” as part of an email address, we evoke ghosts of textual cultures flourishing before the rise of printed books. When we skim through a book’s table of contents and its index to read efficiently or we wonder how to use the semi-colon properly, we are drawing on medieval textual innovations that remain in use today. But not only does manuscript culture live on in contemporary books and thinking, but medieval manuscripts themselves are taking on a new life – in growing online collections that grant us access to a library of medieval texts larger than anything possible in the Middle Ages. This class asks students to consider what changes when manuscripts are digitized.

This class has two major goals. First, it seeks to introduce students to medieval manuscript culture based on a hands-on experience working with the two complete medieval manuscripts and the dozen folios at the Archives and Research Collection in MacOdrum library. We have only a little information about our two manuscripts and in class we will work together to unlock the secrets of their origin and provenience. This brings us to the second goal – to use digital tools to describe, understand and present our medieval material. By using different digital tools to play with, map, transcribe, describe, and present our medieval manuscripts, the course seeks to teach students how to undertake a digitization project of their own. In essence the goal of this course is to train students in a methodology which is both cutting edge and in demand by heritage institutions.

By the end of this course, students will:

  • understand how a medieval book was copied, assembled and disseminated
  • be familiar with key tools to view, annotate, publish, and present digital archival material (mostly medieval material)
  • be prepared to go out into the world armed with some knowledge of how and how not to begin your own DIY digitization project
  • We intend to document our work process by maintaining a handbook, a blog and on social media (twitter: @MdvlBook) to leave a roadmap for others.

No previous expertise in Digital Humanities is necessary for this course, but a willingness to learn is key. In this class, we’ll all be learning as we’re doing – both the teacher and the students.


Students will be responsible for diligently and carefullyreading the assigned texts, as well as additional articles, book chapters and primary sources. There is no assigned textbook to be purchased.

 The course will largely be managed through online tools. Our class has a blog (and some class materials) located, well … here obviously. It also has a support website with a calendar of readings and work schedule at And we will be working on developing a (at the moment nearly empty) website at


It is not possible to speak too much in class.

Communication in class and outside the classroom is actively encouraged. During class, students should feel welcome to ask questions, request clarifications and express their thoughts about the material being treated. Discussion and an exchange of views are the very keystones of learning.

Please remember that personally meeting with the professor during office hours is often the best and quickest way to resolve your concerns, questions and queries. Please do not use e-mail to ask questions that should/ could be brought up during or after class or for information that is contained in the syllabus. Understand that I may not receive messages left late in the day or on the weekend, nor am I always free to respond immediately.

In HIST 4006, students will be asked to connect to a number of different platforms which will ease communication outside of the classroom and by using non-university resources. Much of our work will be public (Twitter/ Blog), so please let me know if you are not comfortable working on publicly.


Weekly Practical Exercises
Humanities Commons Profile
Project Updates/ Feedback
Leading Seminar
Catalogue Entry
Digital Exhibition
2 x 5%


  1. Humanities Commons Profile            6pm,September 16th, 2018
  2. Weekly Practical Exercises 6pm, Sundays
  3. Peer Feedback Ongoing, but at least 2x/ term
  4. Project Updates 2x per term acc. to set schedule
  5. Omeka Catalogue Entry 4pm, December 4th, 2018
  6. Presentation                            In class, March 25th/April 1st, 2019
  7. Digital Exhibition 6pm, April 7th, 2019
  8. Meet I with prof to discuss project Term I – by December 3rd, 2018
  9. Meet II with prof to discuss project Term II – by March 18th, 2019

Though we won’t be using CuLearn for much of anything, grades will be recorded there. Any work handed in after the due date must be accompanied by official documentation to support your claim if you wish to avoid the penalty. Written work handed in late will be marked down one grade point per 24 hrs, i.e. a C+ assignment submitted late becomes a C, whether it is submitted 5 hours or 23 hours after the deadline.


A more detailed step-by-step guide to the projects will be distributed later in term. All assignments will be completed online so no paper copies are necessary.

 Quick Guide to length:

  • HCommons profile:                                        300 words + multimedia/accounts
  • Weekly practical exercises                         will vary
  • Peer feedback                                                   300 words x 4  (2 per term)
  • Project Updates:
    • Blogs                                                               500 words x 4
    • Tweets                                                           (≈200 characters x 4) x 4 times
    • Github                                                             Upload content from exercises x 5
  • Leading Seminar Preview Post                500 words x 2 (one per term)
  • Omeka Catalogue Entry                              ≈ 2000 words (drawing on exercises)
  • Research Presentation                                15 mins ≈ 2,000 words
  • Digital Exhibition                                              ≈ 3000 words

Classroom Components

Participation. All students are expected to have read and assimilated the material for discussion each week – take written notes or make online annotations on to organize your thoughts. You will assign to yourself a mark for your degree of involvement (subject to oversight; see sheet). Your participation mark will be determined both by the frequency of your attendance (10%) and the degree of your involvement (10%).

In the first and second term, you must meet with the professor to discuss your weekly assignments and your progress towards the larger project. You are encouraged to arrange a meeting with the professor individually around the middle of each term, but specific classes will also be set aside near the end of term for this specific purpose.

Additional bonus points (up to 5% of final grade) may be awarded for organization or attendance of talks or events outside of class time.

Leading Seminar. Each student will be responsible for leading the seminar once per term (i.e. be that week’s expert, introducing the assigned readings, digital tools etc. to the seminar as a whole). The “seminar leader” must publish one week in advance a blog poston the course websiteto identify, without overly summarizing, the main points and overall significance of the texts. In addition to a brief personal reflection, seminar leaders will be expected to post guiding questions for their assigned class. We will maintain a sign-up sheet online to keep track of each week’s leader(s) as a shared online spreadsheet.

Research Presentations.In the last weeks of the second term, students will offer concise, well-prepared formal presentations of their work (15 mins), explaining how they developed their research and what its impact is on our general understanding of the history of the medieval book. The topics of the presentation will be the same as the topic of the Digital Exhibition (see below), though organized in the most attractive and logical fashion for an oral presentation.

 Written Components

Humanities Commons Profile. Students must create a complete profile on https://hcommons.orgaccording to the instructions laid out on the course Gitbook.

Practical exercises. Most weeks we will spend some time in class showing students how to complete some practical exercises (such as transcription) and using select digital tools. Usually, this work will be required to be finished on your own time afterwards. In the first term, this practical work will be digital (e.g. signing up for accounts, exploring twitter etc.) and codicological (you will be working each week with the same medieval folio. At the end of each week (Sunday evenings), your work needs to be recorded in a markdown file on the medieval book Github. This weekly work will contribute key information and text for your final work each term. So long as you complete the work each week, your final projects will be easy to complete. You can imagine this as weekly “homework” needing to be done each week in addition to reading and thinking about the readings.

Project Updates. This is a catch-all term to describe blog posts (4) and burst of tweets (minimum of 4 tweets x 4 times) students must complete to reflect on the class readings or describe the ongoing process of digitizing manuscripts. Tweets/ blog posts can:

  • deal critically (i.e. thoughtfully) with the readings, note important points you took away from them, how they relate to other readings/ your other blog posts
  • discuss your work process, frustrations with the course/ tools we’re using, rant about how hard transcribing a language you don’t know…
  • use it as a way to engage further with ideas that other students have expressed in class, or in previous blog posts, or discuss thoughts that came to you unexpectedly from Twitter etc.
  • If you’re publicly releasing pictures of anything but the manuscripts (i.e. other students) you need to secure their permission beforehand.

Your profile, practical exercises and project updates will be assessed according to a simplified marking rubric:

0%        = unsatisfactory/ incomplete
70%     = satisfactory
100%   = exceptional

Omeka Catalogue Entry. At the end of the first term, students will need to put together the work completed each week on their chosen medieval folio into a single detailed catalogue entry in Omeka. In essence, you need to demonstrate your ability to describe your folio (marshalling evidence/ bibliography for your assessment) as well as offer a transcription of the text. Much of the work that you do for weekly exercises will be a component of the information necessary for this assignment.

Digital Exhibit.Students will create or collaborate on a “digital exhibit” at the end of second term. Students are encouraged to use the “Exhibition” feature on Omeka, but can also create something on Github, Humanities Commons or another platform of their choosing (after discussing it with the professor). 

Class Requirements

  1. Students are expected to attend seminars, read assigned readings, and participate fully in class discussions, exercises and activities. Assignments are expected to reflect an understanding of the readings assigned and the themes discussed in class. All assignments must be completed for the student to pass the course. Attendance in mandatory and students that miss more than six (6) classes cannot pass the course.
  2. Students must have access to cuLearn. All email contact with the professor must be via the university email account.
  3. All students must abide by Carleton regulations on academic honesty.
  4. Students must read the syllabus completely and thoroughly. To demonstrate you have done so, please Slack me a picture of an intriguing medieval manuscript you discover. In your email, tell me how you found the manuscript image.