The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at Penn brings manuscript culture, modern technology and people together.

DM: Tools For Digital Annotation and Linking

The DM project is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant for 2013-15 by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will fund current developmental goals and will continue work with our partner projects, including the Virtual Mappa project with the British Library.


DM is an environment for the study and annotation of images and texts. It is a suite of tools, enabling scholars to gather and organize the evidence necessary to support arguments based in digitized resources. DM enables users to mark fragments of interest in manuscripts, print materials, photographs, etc. and provide commentary on these resources and the relationships among them. A principle objective in this project is to continue to develop our understanding of scholarly work processes in order to effectively support research as it is practiced now, while opening the door for new methods of scholarship to emerge.

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DM at its most basic is a tool for linking media. There are four types of resources with which DM permits the user to work: images, texts, and fragments of images or texts as marked out by a user. A user may create links between any combination of resources. The most common is a link from a textual annotation to the image, text, or fragment it describes. In many projects, a single annotation will reference (e.g., for comparison) fragments from several images. DM is designed to enable scholars to easily create these and other types of relationships among resources.

DM also allows users to export the linked data they create for database use. Data may be exported in a standard RDF3 (XML, TTL) format and is designed to be adaptable to Open Annotation Collaboration and Shared Canvas protocols.

Current Developmental Goals: In the current phase of DM development, we are focusing primarily on the ability to: A) create and manage collections of images and texts; B) add the ability for users and groups in order to create, track and organize work by different collaborators within a working group; and C) easily “roll out” the linked and annotated data created within the DM environment for publishing or other interoperability. DM will use its current NEH Digital Humanities Implementation Grant to realize these goals.

This video from DM’s earlier phase of development at Drew University presents features in development for working with multiple manuscript repositories in the same workspace:


Use Cases

Projects that have used DM in past or ongoing work include:

    • Parker’s Scribes: Scholars at the University of Toronto and the University of Oxford used DM to distinguish and characterize the scribes of Archbishop Matthew Parker’s manuscript collection. Their approach is based on the handwriting in scribal notations appearing throughout the more than 500 manuscripts in this collection.
    • Pelagios: (various projects and institutions) Pelagios is a collective of projects connected by a shared vision of a world in which the geography of the past is every bit as interconnected, interactive and interesting as the present. Each project represents a different perspective on Antiquity, whether map, text or archaeological record, and is committed to open access and a pragmatic lightweight approach that encourages putting the Ancient World online. Pelagios is partnering with DM and the British Library to develop rich data on medieval maps to add to an integrated database.

    • Dictionary of Old English (DOE): Using DM, scholars at the Dictionary of Old English used DM to annotate examples of textual cruxes found in manuscripts in the Parker collection. Thumbnail images and annotation text will be included in DOE entries referencing cruxes.
    • Virtual Mappa Project (Martin Foys, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Peter Barber, Kimberly Kowal, British Library; Asa Mittman, California State University-Chico): the original research initiative that led to the development of the DM Toolset. VMP is a case study in how medieval maps of the world and related geographic texts may be collected, annotated and networked, and plans to include maps from the British Library, the Parker Library (Corpus Christie College, Cambridge) and the Bodleian Library (Oxford). VMP is the beginning of a substantial project to develop a truly interoperable resource that virtually collects and displays content hosted across several digital repositories. Work on this project is currently ongoing.
    • The Pompeii Quadriporticus Project (Eric Poehler, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Steven Ellis, University of Cincinnati) used DM on iPads in the field at Pompeii to compare, mark-up, and annotate archival images of one of Pompeii’s largest and longest known monumental structures.
    • La Chronique Anonyme Universelle jusques’à la mort de Charles VII  – in her translation, critical edition and detailed study of a fifteenth-century French world chronicle (published by Brepols Publishers in 2014), Lisa Fagin-Davis (Medieval Academy of America) used DM to create annotations and a searchable database for this document. An online version of this resource is under development.
    • Insular and Anglo-Saxon Illuminated Manuscripts: An Iconographic Database, by Asa Simon Mittman (California State University, Chico). Asa Mittman is using DM to develop a new digital edition of Thomas Ohlgren’s Insular and Anglo-Saxon Illuminated Manuscripts: An Iconographic Catalogue, to expand access to, streamline the use of, and augment with digital images the original content of this invaluable print resource for medieval art historical study.
    • Scholars at Stanford University and the University of Virginia used DM to explore research questions focused on the work of the fourteenth-century composer Guillaume de Machaut.
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DM grew out of the Digital Mappaemundi project, originally conceived by Martin Foys, first in partnership Asa Mittman and, as the project developed, Shannon Bradshaw (Drew University). Digital Mappaemundi is a project exploring annotation of medieval maps and geographic texts (now the Virtual Mappa project). Through that work, Bradshaw and Foys realized that the tools they were building were more broadly applicable to humanities resources (and resources in other areas of study). Subsequently, the project expanded to become the DM Resource, looking to serve scholarly activity across the humanities.

For a detailed overview of the first two phases of DM development, please see Bradshaw, S. and Foys, M. “Developing Digital Mappaemundi: An Agile Mode for Annotating Medieval Maps.” Digital Medievalist 7 (2011).

In 2014, the DM Project moved from Drew University to the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, where it will continue development.  Dot Porter (SIMS) now serves as the project’s technical lead, and along with Martin Foys directs the project and the NEH Digital Humanities Implementation grant.


If you have questions or comments, please contact the project at

3 thoughts on “DM: Tools For Digital Annotation and Linking

  1. Pingback: digitalculturesnews Fwd: Digital Mapping – Asa Mittman, Feb. 26 | Performance Studies

  2. Pingback: Digital tools and more | Modernism and the Image

  3. Pingback: Cfp: International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI: May 11–14, 2017: Three Sessions | MAPS: The Medieval Association of Place and Space

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