Digitally unearthing hidden treasure
The Library holds 190 Middle Eastern manuscripts, dating from the 12th to the 20th century. The full collection has been made publicly accessible using state-of-the-art equipment and in-house expertise at the University Library’s Digitisation Service (UDS).
The manuscripts have been digitised and will be available online, with one final manuscript needing conservation work to have its pages ‘unstuck’.
Jock Murphy, the library’s Director of Collections, said the manuscripts were important research materials for scholars of the Middle East, “while also being objects of great beauty”.
The manuscripts include illustrations and subject matter comprising religious texts, love stories, astrology, weaponry and more.
Joe Arthur from the UDS described the collection as “challenging, complex, diverse, beautiful and maddening … but mostly, invigorating”.
The diversity and complexity of the collection meant the UDS needed to develop new methods and tools to complete the task, which will, in turn, benefit future projects.
Five of the manuscripts are heading to the State Library of Victoria as part of a free public exhibition titled Love and Devotion: from Persia and Beyond. The exhibition, largely drawn from the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, will run from 9 March to 1 July and is sponsored by the University.
The University’s Middle Eastern Manuscripts collection was assembled by the Reverend Professor John Bowman between 1959 and 1975 during his time as head of the University’s Department of Semitic Studies.
The manuscripts are housed in the Baillieu Library and can be viewed online at the University’s repository http://bit.ly/yLXiav.