Tuesday, 27 May 2008

History and Technology

It's likely that if I say the word medievalist to you, you'll probably have images of some reasonably elderly academic, probably with a tweed jacket, definitely with glasses, poring over dusty books (You'll probably also ask why I'm saying the word medievalist for no apparent reason). I'll admit to the glasses, as an occasional thing, but as for the rest of it...

Technology, it seems, has finally started to catch up with my discipline of choice (well, more accident really). Hull's John Palmer and his team have had their online, searchable database of Domesday Book out for a little while now, which is better than searching through the books, hoping that you haven't missed anything. Now if only Hull's university library would decide to sign up. Apparently, they're currently working on the idea that since they've got the paper version, there's no need for the other.

What they have signed up to, again, is the International Medieval Bibliography. I say again because a little while ago they did exactly the same thing as with Domesday Book. They said, 'we've got the paper version, and it's not like anyone ever uses it. Look, it's been unused for a couple of months now.' Someone has obviously explained that there are stretches when no one uses the thing, but that's mostly because they spend about three weeks doing nothing else at the start of the year. So now it's back on. This has just made me very happy. Instead of slogging through 20 volumes of the paper version to find the details of a couple of decades of articles, I've been able to just put in a database search. It might not sound like the most sophisticated aplication of technology, but it's one of the most useful. It's just saved me about three hours work.

Now, if only they'd invent a robot that could do paleography, prosopography, translation, reading impossibly dense articles...

No comments: