“Pepsi for All!”

By Julie Somers

As an American football fan, I watched the 2012 Super Bowl game over the internet and I realized I was missing an essential part of my culture…the commercials. As a medievalist, I was happy to see, while watching on youtube, that the Middle Ages is still a vibrant marketing point – for Pepsi!

This commercial reminded me of the importance of open access. If you have something important to the public, it should be available to all. Inspiration comes from many places.

Over the next twelve months I will be participating in an online user testing of the Humanities Institute Research Project – Manuscripts Online.   This new project is funded by JISC and supported by the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield and specialists in medieval studies at the universities of Leicester, Birmingham, Glasgow, York and Queen’s University Belfast.

According to the project’s document on “Development of the Visual Design for the website Manuscripts Online” they hope to produce a website that is “capable of presenting high quality content in a way which is modern, fresh and inviting to a wide range of users.” It will offer researchers a full text search of resources collected from websites, archives, libraries and publishers concerned with primary sources related to historical and literary documents from medieval England (1066-1500). With the ability to add user information, this project promises to be a valuable resource for medievalists. The testing period allows for researchers to participate in the development of this online accessible search engine.

What most excites me is the anticipation of what “tester research” could mean? Will they really ask my personal user response? Further, what am I, as a researcher, really looking for? In terms of my own interests, I wonder if they will have keyword searches into women’s history?

As a beginning PhD researcher in medieval manuscripts, with an interest in the future of digital humanities, projects like this are important to me on many levels. The ability to combine visual and text resources to aid in research is, in my opinion, the greatest benefit of online projects like these. This is a way to gather information from various resources on a specific topic within a focused time period. A specialized search covering a large variety and quantity of information collected from a broad range of primary sources which may otherwise remain hidden – all accessible to “a wide range of users”. This project can provide the type of synthesized resource a researcher will find valuable when conducting their studies from any location. “Pepsi for all!”

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