Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dashed Hopes

One can imagine that when I saw this posting on the News for Medievalists blog, I nearly jumped out of my skin. The post talks about how the Bodleian Library has made over 25,000 images of medieval manuscripts in its collection available onine through ARTstor. Zowie! There are some little-seen cooking manuscripts in the Bodleian that I'd love to have access to. So it was with no small amount of expectation that I made arrangements with my apprentice (who has access to ARTstor) to spend some quality time doing geeky research.

The best laid plans of mice, and all that.

Roadblock 1
First let me note that ARTstor's user interface was obviously designed by a demented chimpanzee who was suffering from ADHD and short-term memory problems. In all seriousness, I can't imagine that it was made this way by accident - someone had to work awfully hard to make it so bad.

Roadblock 2
After figuring out how to get any kind of information out of ARTstor, we spent about an hour searching, only to find that: 1. only manuscript pages with artwork on them are included, and 2. apparently none of the pages from medieval cooking manuscripts have artwork on them.

To add insult to injury, there were a bunch of pages which had illumination on only part of the page, and of course the text-only part of the page was cropped out. It's almost enough to bring a medieval cooking/word geek to tears.

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