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Materiality of text and image

Leiden’s special collections comprise a great variety in documents, from paper to pixel and from book to byte. The influence of internet and information technology in our modern society triggers a growing interest for the material aspects of ‘analogue’ texts and images. On the other hand: our special collections acquisition policy also applies to born digital materials. Digital versions of physical materials take an intermediate position; they show characteristics that belong to both material and digital culture.

Physical Form

The items that can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room, originate from very different regions and periods. They have been made from various materials, such as, papyrus, parchment and paper, and according to various techniques: handwritten, calligraphed, printed, painted, drawn, typed, stenciled and photographed. Since the material form of these items (script, illustrations, binding, notes etc.) testifies to production techniques and usage from the past, they have to be handled in their original form and studied in situ. The library plays an important role in building and communicating expertise, by facilitating its conservation department and by organizing in house symposia and workshops about production and analysis of techniques

Digital Form

Using digital media efficiently requires knowledge of digital technology, systems and possibilities. The library uses best practices with regard to the publishing of electronic and digital resources, their searchability, relation between original and copy, the migration of textual and image information to new formats and media. Furthermore, the production and usage of digital media creates new research questions. It’s precisely the digital special collections that are a very suitable source to use as a corpus for these kind of questions. That’s why the library collaborates with several institutes and research groups focusing on e-humanities, such as the Leiden master programme Digital Studies.


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