By Chris Kaltenbach, The Baltimore Sun
2:36 PM EDT, March 27, 2012
Baltimore's Walters Art Museum has received a $265,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to put toward digitizing its collection of medieval manuscripts and making it available, via computer, to the general public.
The three-year project, "Imaging the Hours: Creating a Digital Resource of Flemish Manuscripts," includes 113 illustrated manuscripts, encompassing 45,000 pages of text with over 3,000 pages of illumination — elaborate illustrations, such as stylized letters or border decorations. The manuscripts originated in Flanders, now Belgium and northeastern France, from the 13th through 16th centuries.
"Medieval manuscripts are unique historic documents," William Noel, the museum's curator of manuscripts and rare books said in a statement. "They are keys to the past for scholars, witnesses to history for students and objects of beauty for those who love art."
The Flemish manuscripts include 80 Books of Hours, personal prayer books often illuminated in gold and painted by masters of the time.
This is the third NEH grant the Walters has received to help digitize its collection of some 850 medieval manuscripts — one of the largest collections in the Western Hemisphere, second only to the Morgan Library and Museum's in New York. The Walters received $307,500 in 2008 to digitize its Islamic manuscripts; another $315,000 for its collection of Armenian, Byzantine, Dutch, English, Ethiopian and German works.
The museum's goal is to digitize its entire manuscript collection.
"Just as the Walters provides access without admission fee to our permanent collection, we are also making it available as part of our public mission," museum director Gary Vikan said in a statement.
Many of the manuscripts are part of the original art collection bequeathed to the city of Baltimore by Henry Walters in 1931.
Digitized manuscript pages can be viewed at the museum's "Works of Art" site, at art.thewalters.org. Additional images are posted regularly to the Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts' Flickr photostream, at flicker.com/photos/medmss.
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