Digital Mappa(emundi) is Back

Long long ago (2010) on this blog, I posted about Digital Mappaemundi, a new web portal, which I said with orotund optimism "looks as if it will become a wonderful and important resource". It then more or less vanished. Reader Aaron M. (@gundormr) surprised me yesterday with the news that this one is still alive, now called Digital Mappa, with its own web domain and Twitter feed, and that DM 1.0 beta software was released as an open access product this week.

The idea was to create portals where digital images of manuscripts overlaid with digital plots and transcriptions and coexist with hyperlinks to similar manuscripts so that readers could explore them with ease. In the years since DM first poked its head above the parapet, I heard of various projects of a similar nature which generally seemed to die when grants ran out or the poor student doing the donkey work graduated.

Perhaps the biggest deal in this period was the creation of IIIF, a standard to mark up manuscripts so that they can be exhibited online side by side. I still find IIIF a bit baffling, with a dearth of tutorials and models.

Let's be frank: the way the web has always grown in the 20 years I have known it is that you find a good portal and then shamelessly pirate its code and its best features for your own project. I presume my own code has babies all over the place. But I have never found any IIIF project I could clone, and will be interested to see if DM sites are capable of parthogenesis. DM says it will be IIIF-capable from next year in a planned update. The indication that you need a network admin to start a DM project already sounds off-putting: is it that hard?

For a look around, try the Virtual Mappa collection, which contains various mappaemundi from London. I haven't yet seen enough to review it, though the images seem to take forever to load. The Twitter feed takes you through some of the important features. For the time being, I am continuing to make simple SVG digital plots like that of the Albi Mappamundi which I presented earlier this week.

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