The virtual archive Monasterium is the largest archive for medieval documents, containing more than 250 000 documents (as of Apr. 2012), as plain text, image or both.
The project Monasterium took off in the Austrian province of Lower Austria, which is rich in monasteries. From their founding in the high Middle Ages, these monasteries have stood without interruption, so that this region can boast an unbroken archival tradition. As a result of their great historical meaning, these archives guard the better part of the tradition and history of this country from the Middle Ages and early Modern Period. The strong historical relations between the monasteries and throughout the surrounding country establish the ideal conditions to realize the possibility of a virtual retrieval system of these broadly distributed sources. Spreading out from the St. Pölten episcopal archive, work on this project began with the energetic support of government and the monasteries themselves.
From project to institution The logical consequence of the project with the Lower Austrian monasteries was reaching out to the other Austrian provinces and the countries neighboring Austria. With the support of the Austrian State Ministry for Education, Art and Culture (Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur) and the European Union, Monasterium has succeeded in finding the financial support to manage a further out-reach effort. With this, the many already existing connections between the archives could finally be merged in June 2006. The Memorandum created for this has since then presented the underlying basis for collaboration in the Consortium. However, the Consortium did not intend to stand on this document permanently, and has striven to further develop itself. This lead to the November 2007 creation of a basic declaration of intent, in which the emerging network and its connected virtual archive established a more enduring common union in ICARus (International Centre for Archival Research).
Content and originality
The virtual archive Monasterium contains more than 250 000 documents (as of Apr. 2012) from more than 98 European archives. The documents are organized in 540 archival fonds and research collections. The content of the virtual archive depends on the decisions of the participants. It can vary from archive to archive, from collection to collection. Each document (mostly charters) have at least minimal metadata such as shelf mark and date and abstract. Each institution can download on Monasterium's servers:
- digitized images (387 000 images as of Apr. 2012, since more than one image can be related to one document)
- full text (22 000 charters)
This platform specific features are:
- Mutualized infrastructure and development for many institutions,
- Hosting of digital images
- Long-term preservation
- Collaboration & crowdsourcing
- Scientific moderation through qualified experts
- Large scale visibility of local and small archives
- Free of charge for participating institutions
The development is done at the University of Cologne for ICARUS (International Centre for Archival Research), which gathers more than 130 members in 25 countries in Europe and the Canada.
Users have the possibility to transcribe the documents and to correct the plain text or descriptions. The system is moderated (expert users have to review the transcriptions before the publication) The editing tool is migrating from Java to Ajax