Liturgical Books presents the examples from the RBML of the various types of books used in the Middle Ages for the celebration of the Latin liturgy. This new resource is the result of the collaborative redesign of a web exhibit (Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books) designed by Consuelo Dutschke, Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Books until 2019, in conjunction with an exhibition of liturgical manuscripts at RBML on the occasion of the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America in New York City in 2002. The original site included images from several libraries and its architecture could no longer support updating; the new Liturgical Books focuses exclusively on materials in the RBML. Susan Boynton (Professor of Music) proposed the project and collaborated with Music Ph.D. student John Glasenapp on updating the text, consolidating sections from the original pages, adding new sections on “Books for the Mass” and “Books for the Office,” and updating the list of further readings. Digital Scholarship Librarian Alex Gil led the project and built the pages using Wax, the minimal computing toolset designed by Marii Nyröp.
The original site was organized thematically around aspects of the liturgy and its books and could be navigated through both a menu on the homepage or as a slideshow in the manner of a live exhibition. Manuscript images were paired with explanatory texts not specific to the sources themselves, but rather to the type of source and its use. Because every medieval manuscript is unique, a variety of visual examples was used to illustrate the range of possible layouts and the appearances of these sources.
For the new educational resource, it was important to ensure that users could quickly and easily access whatever targeted content was of interest to them. To help users search for a description (e.g. to study the components of the medieval liturgy) or a visual overview of the liturgical manuscripts at the RBML (e.g. to study a set of sources using a common script), we decided to provide two different menus on the homepage. The “Browse Exhibits” menu lists various types of liturgical sources or groups of liturgical sources, such as those used for either the Mass or the Divine Office. A second menu, “Browse Images,” features thumbnails of all the manuscript images included in the site.
Each image links to its record in the Digital Scriptorium database, which was co-founded by Dutschke. The images are encoded with additional metadata including the full citation of the manuscript shelfmark and a brief description.
John Glasenapp added the metadata and links between pages to an Excel spreadsheet, which he then uploaded to Github. Alex Gil used this data in order to generate the current site using a modified version of the Wax theme. The main goal was to separate the collection into sub-collections by the type of liturgical category of the manuscripts. Users can not only browse by these categories, but also learn about each one on its own page. Liturgical.columbia.edu also allows you to search and reuse the data, a useful feature of all Wax sites. Liturgical Books offers a new way to explore RBML collections for research, teaching, and reference.
– John Glasenapp and Alex Gil