• An example of a medieval book from the 15th century that will be part of a digitizing project

A consortium of universities, including Indiana University Bloomington and Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, has received a more than $280,000 grant to digitize and catalog a series of manuscripts dating back to Medieval times.

The three-year grant will be used to create a digital repository of centuries-old books and manuscript collections. IU says the manuscripts were created between 800 and 1600 AD.

The documents are currently held at nearly two dozen Midwestern universities, including IU Libraries’ Lilly Library.

“Every surviving medieval book and fragment has the potential to tell us more about medieval book arts, textual traditions, individuals’ lives and libraries — and even, through their physical qualities and materials, things like animal husbandry and commerce,” said Elizabeth Hebbard, the project’s primary principal investigator and assistant professor at IU Bloomington.

Hebbard says the grant will help make accessible a wealth of uncatalogued material for scholarly research.

The Council on Library and Information Resources awarded the grant, which IU Bloomington will serve as host.

“We are grateful to CLIR for the opportunity to learn more about medieval material culture as it survives in the Midwest, and to celebrate the role that Midwestern institutions have played in the conservation of this important cultural heritage,” Hebbard said.

IU Libraries will scan or photograph the manuscripts. Researchers at IU Bloomington, Loyola University Chicago and Saint Mary’s College will catalog these objects with assistance from other partner institutions.

“Because they have traveled so far from where they were produced, medieval manuscripts in the United States have particularly interesting stories that span the centuries between their production and their entry into a library or museum collection,” said Hebbard.

Hebbard says parchment, in general, is extremely durable as it was made from animal hide. She says most of the items that will be digitized are not fragile, but Hebbard says part of the planning process will include assessing the condition of all materials to ensure that their transport and digitization will not put fragile items at risk of damage.