Other news: Issue 8, September 2011

MeMO news

MeMO project news - new websites

As many of you may already know, the MeMO project recently launched a new website, called The floor slabs of Oudewater. This website was created to provide a first impression of the MeMO activities involving tomb monuments and tomb slabs.

The coming academic year MeMO will publish two new websites, which will be set up similarly to the Oudewater site. The first website will be called Representations of pilgrims to Jerusalem. It was already announced in an earlier issue of this newsletter. This website has been in production for several years now, and it has passed through the hands of Louise van Tongerloo, Maartje van Dijk, Truus van Bueren and Kim Ragetli. The website will contain photographs of works of art showing the portraits of pilgrims who visited the Holy Land. For as far as we know, this type of portrait was mainly found in the Low Countries, and can be considered rare elsewhere. However, as always, tips and suggestions about any pilgrim portraits which are not from the Low Countries are very welcome.

The second website will contain information about memorial works of art, which were situated near tombs and graves in Flemish churches. This website will be based on the research project of Douglas Brine for his dissertation: Piety and Purgatory: Wall-mounted memorials from the southern Netherlands, c.1380-1520 (London, 2006). Like the first website, this second website is meant as an introduction to the MeMO project's activities. It will contain photographs and information which will eventually be included in the international version of the MeMO database.

This second website is also part of MeMO's preparations to go international. A more in-depth status update for MeMO, as well as any developments concerning the internationalisation, will be presented in the next issue of this newsletter.

MeMO website: http://memo.hum.uu.nl/

Other news

Memorial register from Zutphen digitized

Archives are much committed to digitization of historical sources to increase their availability to a wider audience. Mostly emphasized are those sources most consulted, or sources which are deemed most vulnerable. The Regional Archives Zutphen have recently chosen a reasonably unknown source to digitize: an early sixteenth century memorial register.

The manuscript shows many characteristics of Modern Devotion traditions, which is why it is thought to be manufactured in the scriptorium of the common house 'Heer Florenshuis' in Deventer between 1521 and 1537. In 1537 the book was donated to the college of the vicars of St. Walburgis Church Zutphen by Hermannus Buys Huyser of Venray, vicar of St. Barbara altar in that same church. Other than the officium and mortuarium, the book also contains copies of deeds and testamentary gifts. The register is carefully bound and beautifully decorated with rubricated initials.

During the Reformation these memorial registers or obituaries were either intentionally destroyed or simply forgotten. It is likely that during this period the obituary of the vicars of the St. Walburgis Church fell in private hands. However in 1963 the Dutch government purchased the book, which had been discovered in Germany, and it was brought back to Zutphen.

It cannot only be considered a beautiful manuscript, but also a historical source of substantial importance, which is why the RAZ decided to digitize this manuscript for the greater public. Historical research in obituaries may lead to increased knowledge of the Catholic belief, the culture of remembrance and organisation of Catholic institutions prior to the Reformation. In addition, the names of the people for whom the services were kept can be highly important for genealogical research.

Those interested can now browse the website of the RAZ to study the obituary. This way the archives hope to inform people about the particular way in which the dead were commemorated in the Catholic liturgy. Other than containing a few wills in Dutch, the book is mostly written in Latin, making it somewhat less accessible. Therefore it was decided to link a name index to the images, also containing some additional information about the people concerned. Processing the names in the obituary is not an easy task. The specific day of death is known, but the year is usually not listed. Furthermore, additional notes are mostly in Latin. Drs. R. Vredeveldt is currently working on a reliable index on the names, making the register an interesting source of historical and genealogical knowledge to even more people.

New website: Digitaal Oorkondenboek van Noord-Brabant

The Digitaal Oorkondenboek van Noord-Brabant (DONB) is a continuation of Oorkondenboek van Noord-Brabant (ONB), which appeared in print. This publication consisted of two volumes published in 1979 and 2000. It contained all medieval charters from before 1312 involving landed property found in today's province of North Brabant.

With a grant provided by the province of North Brabant and the 'Streekraad Het Groene Woud en De Meierij', it was possible to continue the work on the ONB. Dr. G. Van Synghel, editor of the second volume of the ONB, started working on the final edition for the remaining 750 medieval charters in 2010. These charters will be published digitally as the Digitaal Oorkondenboek van Noord-Brabant (DONB).

Therefore, a new website has been developed by the Institute of Netherlands History (now Huygens Institute of Netherlands History). The first 80 charters have already been published in the database, with images of the charters and full text retrieval options. They are available at: http://www.donb.nl/database. The website also contains the educational program 'Wie schrijft, die blijft!' for primary school education. This website will undoubtedly prove to be useful for memoria researchers, who are interested in transactions involved landed property in Brabant.

The members of the Brotherhood of Saint Mary in 's-Hertogenbosch 1330-1620

The Brotherhood of Saint Mary (Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap or Zwanenbroederschap) in 's-Hertogenbosch has had thousands of members throughout its existence. At the beginning of the 16th century the number of members ran to nearly 14.000. These members were a very diverse group of people. Although the brotherhood had its see in 's-Hertogenbosch, before 1642 only about 30% of its members lived in the north-eastern part of the duchy of Brabant. The remaining members came from Holland (29%), the rest of the duchy of Brabant (13%), the Rhineland (10%), Utrecht (6%) and Guelders (5%). Some members came from even further, such as England, France, the Baltic region and Russia. They belonged to all levels of society: from farmers and simple craftsmen to clergymen and noblemen.

An online database now gives visitors the opportunity to access the lists of members, as written down in the records of the brotherhood. The Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum (BHIC) offers the possibility to easily find those members. Visitors can search and sort the records of members by name, location, profession or title. In most cases the year of a member's registration and the date of their death is also given. The records also include women, as they too could become members of the brotherhood. This database therefore brings a very varied cross section of medieval society to light, and it is a very valuable tool for memoria researchers.

On a final note: the choir books of the famous scribe and music editor Petrus Alamire and the armorials of the sworn members of the brotherhood can also be consulted on this website.


New Project at Ghent University: "Sources from the Medieval Low Countries (SMLC)."

A Multiple Database System for the launch of Diplomata Belgica and for a completely updated version of Narrative Sources

Project partners the Belgian Royal Historical Commission, the Belgian State Archives, the Universities of Leuven, Utrecht and Groningen
Funded by the Flemish Hercules Foundation, 2010-2015

The projects Narrative Sources and Nouveau Wauters - the latter today called Diplomata Belgica - already resulted in the development of innovative electronic databases in the mid-1990s, which have proven their usefulness and reliability for more than a decade, and which have had a significant impact on the progress of the study of the medieval Low Countries (see, respectively: The Narrative Sources from the Medieval Low Countries (Brussels: Royal Historical Commission) and Thesaurus diplomaticus (Turnhout: Brepols, 1997 - CD-rom)).

An argument which was often used in the 1990s, when scholars and publishers chose to publish new heuristic instruments electronically - whether on CD-Rom or on the Internet - was that in this way the ageing of such instruments could be prevented because of the possibility of continuous updating. Paradoxically, it now seems that electronic publications are among the first to suffer from problems of sustainability due to the rapid evolution of electronic media.

Today, both Narrative Sources and Diplomata Belgica are seriously subject to what the Dutch historian Jan Romein has termed the 'law of the retarding lead'. The two databases are not, however, facing exactly the same problems of obsolescence. Narrative Sources, which was very recently moved under the auspices of the Belgian Royal Historical Commission, has been subjected to a project in which completely new software has been developed. The main challenge to this database is therefore the question of how to make and keep its contents up to date. Diplomata Belgica, on the other hand, has long been one of the Historical Commission's showpieces. This dataset can certainly be considered remarkably up to date. It has been updated continuously since 1997 and today contains more than 33.000 descriptions of charters from the pre-1250 Southern Low Countries, ca. 18.000 full text editions and more than 2.000 photographs. However, the Diplomata Belgica collection still lacks a serious database system and accessibility on the internet.

The idea behind SMLC is therefore that it will unite two underlying and separate databases: Diplomata Belgica and Narrative Sources. Each database will contain its own online module for consultation and its own online application for data management and updating. However, SMLC will also offer one extra module for combined searches in both databases. Diplomata Belgica and Narrative sources share a number of fields containing very comparable information: institution where the source is written, diocese or secular principality in which the source originated, religious order of the author, language, chronological period, etc. With one single query it will become possible to collect, for instance, all the diplomatic and narrative sources regarding the Benedictine abbeys of the diocese of Liege in the twelfth century.

In summary: the SMLC project, which will require a development phase of approximately three years and the recruitment of both a historian and an IT-specialist, has a threefold aim: (1) making available electronically the rich collection of Diplomata Belgica in a way which perfectly coincides with our current research interests and needs; (2) completely updating the contents of Narrative Sources, and (3) developing a multiple database system for both these collections in order to facilitate combined searches and advanced methods of 'data mining' and information retrieval with a view to future research questions. Hence it is hoped that within a few years, the project Sources from the Medieval Low Countries (SMLC) will stimulate the development of several new directions in medieval studies and that it will remain a most innovative heuristic tool for many years to come.

See also: J. Deploige et al., 'Remedying the obsolescence of digitised surveys of medieval sources. Narrative Sources and Diplomata Belgica', Bulletin de la Commission Royale d'Histoire, 176 (2010) 151-166.

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This page was last updated on: September 8th, 2011

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