Reviewed October 2018
Eva Sclippa, First Year Engagement Librarian, Randall Library at UNCW
Parker Library on the Web is a relaunch of the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge’s original 2009 website. This relaunch continues the tradition of access to the Parker Library’s collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts while also making use of the International Image Interoperability Framework. The website will be continually updated, and is free and open to all.
Navigation through the resource is relatively straightforward, with three primary means to browse its contents: by manuscript, by page-level detail, and by bibliography. Browsing by manuscript allows both browsing and more targeted searching; it is particularly helpful that users can search specifically within the full manuscripts category using a dropdown box that further narrows their search to manuscript titles, authors/contributors, manuscript numbers, and even items in tables of contents. There are relatively few limiters available—specifically, resource type, language, and date range—but these are useful for narrowing down a search without a specific manuscript title or number in mind.
The Page-level Details functionality and browsing collection is where Parker Library on the Web truly shines. This part of the tool highlights individual pages from manuscripts, allowing users to search descriptive text of miniatures and other page content, a potentially valuable feature if, for instance, searching for examples of specific imagery or content across a given period. Page-level Details could benefit from morerobust metadata, and users will have to choose their search terms carefully as a result. Unlike the manuscripts, Page Details lacks thumbnail previews, which prevents quick visual scanning and forces the user to rely on the search function or viewing each document individually.
Once the user is viewing a document, the manuscript viewing window provides an excellent experience. Each manuscript is accompanied by a complete table of contents, as well as an in-depth description of the manuscript itself. The viewer works smoothly, providing simple page to page navigation. Perhaps the most exciting feature is the ability to open a linked table of contents by toggling a side panel on the left of the screen. This allows researchers to instantly jump to any part of the work, skipping tedious hours of navigating one page at a time hoping to find the section of interest to them.
The images themselves are also of exceptional quality, and drawn from an incredibly large collection. Each manuscript scan includes a very high resolution image of the covers (if they exist), and takes care to show the full document, rather than cropping out the edges of the pages. Users can magnify each page, as well as edit each image with a selection of basic tools. Parker Library on the Web has made additional efforts to add value for users through their Curated Features and Bibliographies offerings. The Bibliographies feature provides a searchable list of references cited on each manuscript’s information pages, a small touch that may aid researchers. Curated Features promises to expand over time, with themed subject pages arranged around Parker Library exhibits. This section of the site is perhaps most targeted towards Parker Library visitors seeking a more in-depth experience of their exhibits, and is less of a research tool than the resource’s other features.
Though this resource might benefit from more robust tagging and metadata, it is a very solid and well thought-out virtual library of medieval manuscripts. Art historians researching medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, book art, and imagery will find it very useful and navigable, though students may struggle more with the structure. Parker Library on the Web is an excellent researcher-oriented resource that opens a vast collection of manuscript treasures to a much wider audience