The University of Sheffield
AZ_WellcomeScopingReport_final.pdf (356.93 kB)

A survey of research projects improving the discoverability of manuscripts resources through digital technologies

Download (356.93 kB)
posted on 2020-10-22, 15:38 authored by Alice Zamboni

This report offers a concise description and analysis of currently active and recently completed research projects which seek to improve the discoverability of pre-modern manuscripts through digital technologies such as IIIF and TEI or by means of collaborative transcription initiatives. In researching this report, particular attention was paid to projects that focus on resources relevant to food history, such as culinary recipes. Research was carried out systematically by reading the abstracts of current or recently completed projects supported by the major funding bodies in the UK, European Union and North America. Nevertheless, there are some limitations to the comprehensiveness of this report on a chronological, geographical and linguistic level.

To start with the chronological limitations, the use of digital technologies such as TEI and IIIF in humanities and information technology projects has grown exponentially in the past decade. For this reason, it was deemed appropriate to focus on projects that began no earlier than 2010. The newest projects included in this report have started in the summer of 2020.

The search for relevant project was easier for certain geographical regions than for others. For projects funded in the UK, the UKRI Gateway to Research website was an especially valuable starting point, because it brings together information on a large proportion of the major research projects funded across the humanities and social sciences. Attention was also paid to research taking place in major DH centres across the country and to the growing digital collections created by several university libraries.

The landscape of funding bodies across the rest of Europe is much more varied and fragmented. A thorough search through all funding bodies for each EU country would require more extensive research. Thus, for EU-based projects, this report has opted for a spotlight approach, concentrating on projects that are of particular relevance to food historians. Similarly, the search for relevant projects across the US was limited to the grants awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Libraries and Museums and, for Canada, by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Linguistic barriers have also hindered the comprehensiveness of this research. Several of the transcription and digitisation initiatives presented in this report have proved more arduous to discover because they are described solely in the European language of the country where the project is hosted. Searches were carried out in French, German, Dutch and Italian, but it is possible that similar digitisation and transcription initiatives exist in the Scandinavian region, the Iberian Peninsula as well in eastern Europe. Discovering these projects is likely to require reading knowledge of these languages.

Overall, systematic search through the main fund-giving bodies was found to yield but partial results. Particularly across Europe and the US, several digitisation and transcription initiatives have been coordinated by singular libraries or research centres that draw upon internal funding and rely on volunteers for the transcription of manuscripts. Searches targeted to collections with rich holdings of manuscripts and / or performed in languages other than English have proved more successful in uncovering digitisation and crowdfunding transcription initiatives, which have been devoted a separate section of this report.


AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network

UK Research and Innovation

Find out more...



  • There is no personal data or any that requires ethical approval


  • The data complies with the institution and funders' policies on access and sharing

Sharing and access restrictions

  • The data can be shared openly

Data description

  • The file formats are open or commonly used

Methodology, headings and units

  • Headings and units are explained in the files

Usage metrics

    Department of Geography


    Ref. manager