A website on Norwegian manuscript fragments

fragment.uib.no is a fun website about the history of the book in Norway. It makes reconstructed Latin manuscripts accessible online and provides background information and explanation of key terminology in an easily understandable way.

Behind the scenes

The website is an outreach activity of the research project From manuscript fragments to book history. The project was running at the University of Bergen from 2012 to 2017 with paleographer Åslaug Ommundsen as primary investigator. Design and development were done by Reine Linjer Internett, and the photography on the page was taken by Øystein Klakegg. The site was launched in 2015 and is still being updated beyond the project’s official end.

Structure & content

The website consists of a home page and four content pages. On the home page, there is a welcome section and a blogroll if you scroll further down. The latter might easily be overlooked, which would be a pity. The posts add a level of interpretation by discussing phenomena shared by several reconstructed manuscripts. The blog is updated with varying frequency.
Virtual manuscripts is the core content page of the website. Here, you can read about selected manuscripts that the team has reconstructed from fragments. There is a short introduction to each manuscript, which informs the reader about the item’s peculiarities. A button saying “view the virtual manuscript” will then open a pop-up window, in which you can browse the reconstructed manuscript via flip html5. Flip html5 can be navigated using your keyboard arrows or the buttons on the screen. There are options to view the reconstruction in full screen, print, or share on social media – the only thing you cannot do, is to download it. The reconstruction themselves list all fragments by shelfmark and have another introduction on the second page. Missing pages are indicated, and in some of the reconstructions ruling is indicated. You also find reference literature if applicable. The reconstructions have nicknames, so you don’t have to juggle complicated shelf marks. In August 2017, there had been uploaded fifteen reconstructed manuscripts, all of which were liturgical books.
Complementary to the reconstructions, the page entitled A book’s life in Norway takes you on a tour through the history of the manuscripts. Short informational texts introduce videoclips, in which experts talk about key stages. You find Michael Gullick on “A book is born”, Alf Tore Hommedal on “A book is used”, Yngve Nedrebø on “From book to fragment” and “Fragments in archives”, and Åslaug Ommundsen on “From fragments to books”. The videoclips sport good audio and images with a full screen option.
The page The medieval manuscript features short descriptive lists about book types and the liturgy. They are meant as a reference library, and the manuscript descriptions link here whenever terminology is used. Due to the lack of connecting text, this page is less suited to be read on its own behalf.
The contact page About us is kept very brief; it mentions who is involved in the project and where the funding was received from. If you want to learn more about From Manuscript Fragments to Book History, this is also where you find the link to the project description on the University of Bergen's domain.

Design

fragment.uib.no uses photographs of manuscript details as background of the page. These were made professionally, and they are true eye candy. On top of the images there are text boxes in a dark shade with low transparency. On a lower level, we find solid dark blocks with light text. The colours employed in the menu and the buttons are yellow, green, blue, and red. This colour scheme matches what we find in the illuminations of the manuscript in the background. It seems that a lot of effort was put into creating a visually appealing website with high standards.
You can choose to view fragment.uib.no in English or Norwegian. There is a mobile-friendly version, in which the design does not work as well, and which is a bit tricky to navigate. At least on the devices that I use.

In desktop mode, I find some of the pages too long and get lost easily. There is a side bar to navigate the content pages, which took me some time to discover. Also, the vivid background images distract me, but that’s a totally personal thing. It’s a very interesting and informative webside from a professional point of view. It is a fresh contribution to the digital representation of manuscripts. And not least, it simply visually appealing.

Commendation

I like fragment.uib.no first of all because I worked with the project for three years. I was involved in the development of the page, and it was the first time that I experienced all the way from the first vague idea that suddenly came up in one of our weekly meetings to the final product. And even though I have now moved on to another project, I still go in quite frequently to check if there are new blog posts or reconstructions. I also enjoy the videoclips that were added in the second run of development after my departure from Bergen.

fragment.uib.no is a great website for people who have just started to discover the fascinating world of manuscripts – or for whom this even is the first encounter. But there is also interesting aspects to find for scholars who do not work with the Norwegian fragment material on a regular basis. Many of the reconstructions are new contributions to the research of fragments, so even insiders will find something exciting to look at – and they will discover the material of their research in a new way.