Frequently students in Library Instruction sessions ask questions about how to find resources on the Internet that relate to a specific topic. In this document I shall attempt to look at some of the ways in which students who are looking for material on the Internet about one specific topic (i.e. "medieval manuscripts") can discover what kind of resources are available and customize their search to suit their particular needs. Search engines, subject directories, specialized lists, and individual web sites of particular interest will all be examined in an attempt to discover not only what type of information about medieval manuscripts is available on the Net but also what type of search strategies might be appropriate in particular circumstances. Since "medieval manuscripts" is a topic that relates to many disciplines (e.g. Fine Art, Literature, History, Philosophy, Liturgical Studies, Paleography, etc.), it is hoped that this exploration will be of particular value to those who face the challenge of finding material that relates to more than one discipline.
One way of starting a search is to begin with local resources with which one is already somewhat familiar. In this case, I am starting at the University of Toronto's list of Internet Resources by Subject. This gives me a link to a number of relevant web sites that were developed locally (e.g. the sites that were developed by the Fine Art Department and by the Records of Early English Drama Project). After clicking on Fine Art, I am able to link to other art-related resources, including Chris Witcombe's Art History Resources on the Web, which is divided by period and which has an excellent list of links under the heading Medieval Manuscripts, or I could return to the listing of sites by the Fine Art Department and scroll down to The Labyrinth, where I would be able to make a connection to what many would probably identify as the best, most comprehensive web site on the Middle Ages. If I were to return to the University of Toronto's list of Internet Resources by Subject and then click on Records of Early English Drama, I would again find a variety of links that relate to medieval manuscripts and I would also be able to explore other sites with particular relevance for the study of medieval (as well as other) forms of drama and theatrical performance. I have mentioned these particular sites not only because of their usefulness but also because of their convenience.
Another way of finding web resources about "medieval manuscripts" is to use one of the directories that list guides to web resources in particular disciplines (like The Argus Clearinghouse). Having connected to The Argus Clearinghouse, if I were to enter the term "medieval manuscripts," I would not get any matches (since this is not one of the headings listed by The Argus Clearinghouse)- but if I were to enter the term "medieval" by itself I would get a number of matches to web sites (including NetSERF and The Medieval History and Literature Page), both of which would offer some assistance in finding material about medieval manuscripts. A similar process could be used in The Librarians' Index to the Internet and INFOMINE.
Another way of finding material about "medieval manuscripts" is to use one of the subject directories, like Yahoo. If I were to connect to Yahoo and then enter "medieval manuscripts," Yahoo would provide me with a number of relevant sites grouped under a number of categories (and subcategories), thus giving me an opportunity to follow up on those links in which I might have a particular interest. This would permit me to focus my browsing in a variety of ways - depending on my particular interests.
On the other hand, if I were to use one of the large search engines like Alta Vista and enter "medieval manuscripts" I would very likely be overwhelmed by the thousands of documents that Alta Vista would bring up. So I might well want to reserve Alta Vista for searches that are more specifically focussed (e.g. on a particular manuscript or a specific collection).
Another way of discovering web sites that relate to a particular topic is by subscribing to a LISTSERV. For example, when I subscribed to a LISTSERV about Medieval Art and sent out a message that I was looking for sites relating to medieval manuscripts, within two days I received messages from as far afield as the University of Oxford, the University of Wisconsin and Sweet Briar College (in Virginia) with excellent suggestions about sites, some of which might have been difficult to find in any other way.
Once one has discovered a web site with a specific focus that appears to be relevant, it is often worthwhile to explore that site in some detail. In this case, I would strongly recommend exploring The Labyrinth.
Other sites that are well worth exploring include DScriptorium , The Aberdeen Bestiary and The Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts from the British Library.
Finally, I would suggest that often we might want to combine a number of different ways of exploring the Internet (e.g. browsing through a subject directory, we might want to follow-up on a specific concept by using a search engine).
By using the approaches outlined above, we should be able to discover that there is a wealth of information on the Internet which relates to "medieval manuscripts," including: (1) facsimiles of texts and images (2) translations of medieval texts (3) modern transcriptions of medieval texts (4) essays, commentaries, and discussions and (5) bibliographies, catalogues and lists - some of which is of an extremely high quality.
In any case, I hope that this brief survey of some of the ways in which resources about medieval manuscripts can be found on the Internet will be of some assistance not only in expanding awareness of the scope and quality of resources that are available on this particular topic but also as a way of exploring some of the different strategies by which electronic resources can be located on a variety of topics - especially those of an inter-disciplinary nature.
Links to other sites on the Web by Albert Masters
Medieval Manuscripts on the Web: A List of Resources
Rare Books on the Web: A Brief Introduction
Rare Books on the Web: A List of Resources
© 1997 firstname.lastname@example.org