Seeing the Past through Digital Eyes: New Approaches to Visualizing Medieval Seals

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 11:10 AM
Mile High Ballroom 4B (Colorado Convention Center)
John McEwan, Saint Louis University
What do we gain when our experience of a medieval text or artifact is through a digital object rather than the original? The answer will depend on what tools were used to create, find, and view the digital object. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how medieval seals can be made available online. The finest medieval seals are small-scale works of art, while even crude examples can be elaborate or distinctive. Medieval seals are preserved in archives and museums where they are often prominently and proudly displayed as iconic monuments of artistic and cultural heritage. Nonetheless, seals have long been overlooked by scholars because they are both textual and visual objects, and thus do not fit into the standard classes of records. My contention is that we should not simply reproduce the existing catalogues, which were designed by and for a limited number of specialist sigillographic researchers. Rather, the information should be made available as linked open data. This paper will present and evaluate work being done at St Louis University to make medieval seals available to the general public.
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