About the Institute

Guided by the vision of its founder, Lawrence J. Schoenberg, the mission of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) is to bring manuscript culture, modern technology and people together to bring access to and understanding of our intellectual heritage locally and around the world. Simply put, SIMS acts as a think-tank for manuscript studies in the digital age.

We advance the mission of SIMS by:

  • developing our own projects;
  • supporting the scholarly work of others both at Penn and elsewhere, and;
  • collaborating with and contributing to other manuscript-related initiatives around the world.

At the core of SIMS is the Lawrence J. Schoenberg collection of manuscripts, which was donated to the Penn Libraries in 2011 as part of a landmark gift establishing the Institute—the largest donation of its kind in the history of the library. Closely associated with this is our flagship digital project, also established by Larry Schoenberg: the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts. This free, open-access resource enables scholars and enthusiasts to trace the provenance of manuscripts from their origins up to today, and has a large, global user community. The Institute  publishes a bi-annual scholarly journal entitled Manuscript Studies, which appears online and in print, and also coordinates other occasional hard copy and digital publications. Every year, SIMS hosts a variety of visiting fellows on a rotating basis, ranging from graduate students to senior scholars; their presence forms a key aspect of the institute’s vibrant intellectual life. We also host, in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia, the annual Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age, which brings together scholars from Penn and around the world every November to present cutting-edge research related to a specific theme.

SIMS staff have also spearheaded major digitization and research initiatives, including the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis collaborative digitization project (2016–2019), and OPenn, the University of Pennsylvania’s open access digital repository for cultural works. Projects currently in development include the Digital Scriptorium 2.0 redevelopment planning project, VisColl collation visualization web app, and Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art web database.

Alongside these research activities, SIMS staff teach a range of manuscript-related courses in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences and at other venues such as Rare Book School and the Price Lab for Digital Humanities’ Dream Lab. They also host one-off visiting classes from the university and beyond who wish to examine manuscripts housed in Penn’s collections, at levels ranging from kindergarden to advanced graduate study.

SIMS staff offices are located in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts on the fifth and sixth floors of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, at the heart of the University of Pennsylvania’s campus in Philadelphia.

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