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Paleography Reading Group

Those who use paleographical skills are spread out over a number of different disciplines (Classics, History, and English, the disciplines of the project leaders, to name only three). While over the past 25 years courses have occasionally been offered in which students can learn paleographical skills, these have been difficult to sustain in individual departments because numbers are low. But when we cast the net wider it is clear that many of us in diverse disciplines work with handwritten documents and individually train our own students. Though handwriting varies over time and is discipline specific there are broad transferable skills as well. Thus the prime aim of this working group is to bring together those of us who need these skills for our basic research in order to provide a supportive, collaborative environment in which we can learn from each other and help students gain the appropriate skills in a more effective way.

The working group will have skilled individuals presenting the type of material each works on to the group, discussing the challenges their source material poses, and what skills and tricks they have learnt which can be transferred. We plan to have three meetings in the fall term and three in the winter term. These seminars will be pedagogical in focus but make use of our own current research and the problems we encounter.

Once the skills to decipher handwritten documents more successfully have been learnt, an important follow up practice is to acquire the knowledge to digitise the material in such a way that an independent and easily transferable and searchable document is the end result. Indeed we want to encourage students to consider digitally encoding transcriptions of handwritten material as a basic part of the process. To this end we propose to bring in an expert in this field for a training session in March. 

The aims of this working group, therefore, are: (a) to establish a paleography training and support group which carries on after the term of the working group; (b) to train student members in particular in paleographical skills, and (c) to train all members of the group in digitally encoding their work following the best practices established by the TEI consortium. It is hoped that such training will also feed well into and bolster our forthcoming SSHRC applications particularly by having on hand trained students for research support and by providing new archival material in a form easily and openly accessible to other researchers.


Dr. Noreen Humble, Associate Professor, Department of Classics and Religion
Dr. Lucie Laumonier, Assistant Professor, Department of History
Dr. Murray McGillivray, Professor, Department of English

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