The Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR), developed at ITSEE, brings together digital resources related to manuscript materials (digital images, descriptions and other metadata, transcripts) in an environment which will permit libraries to add images, scholars to add and edit metadata and transcripts online, and users to access material.
The VMR has several crucial differences from other initiatives in the world of digital resource creation and enrichment:
- It is designed entirely around metadata, operating to a granularity not common in digital libraries. Thus, in the VMR we do not provide metadata records just for whole manuscripts: we provide records for each page image, and for each transcription of text on the page, and for specificying exactly what text is on each page.
- The metadata states the exact resource type associated with the URL specified in each record: the resolution and colour depth of each image, the file format; for text files, whether it is XML and the document schema, and if it is a transcription, what type of transcription.
- The VMR is designed so that it makes optimal use of standard institutional structures. All records may be accessed via the university OPAC, and long-term maintenance of VMR materials and metadata will be offered though the university Institutional Repository.
- The VMR is open, not just to access, but to reuse. Because all metadata created by the VMR will be syndicated on an RSS feed, others may create their own search systems and their own interfaces to VMR data. Most immediately, this permits the two initial VMR partners, Munster and Birmingham, to share data, so that users can access data on both system through a single interface. More interestingly, this will permit others to add material on their own (or indeed on anyone's) server to the VMR: all they need do is create a metadata record for the resource following VMR protocols and add the record to a RSS feed read by any VMR partner.
Taken together, these features will enable any scholar with access to computer and basic computing skills to create high-quality scholarly materials over the web, and have it found and used by others.
Multiple partners are already co-operating in this venture:
- The Birmingham VMR showcases full digitized manuscripts from Birmingham’s Mingana collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts, previously unavailable on the web, with descriptions from the printed catalogue.
- The NT.VMR at the University of Münster, Germany, contains digitizations and transcriptions of New Testament manuscripts.