UCL Centre for Digital Humanities


Scalpels and magic wands: From physical world of book conservation to magic of Digital Humanities

20 November 2014, 5:30 pm

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UCL Centre for Digital Humanities
Gower Street
United Kingdom

In this lecture, Alberto Campagnolo discusses books as objects in primis. They do contain important written information, but their physicality is also a silent witness that needs to be read and preserved.

Traditionally, for museum objects, the balance between their meaning and their usefulness tends heavily towards the former. When it comes to books, things get more complicated, as these artefacts are both regarded as meaningful per se, and useful (for one needs to access and preserve the text they contain). Often in the past, the usefulness of the artefact book outvalued its own meaning as artefact. Modern book conservation strives to keep the balance as even as possible, but this means that there is - and there should be - a limit to what book conservators can do, scalpel at hand, physically on books. These physical limits can be overcome with the collaboration between conservation and Digital Humanities, and this is where the magic happens: the artefact can be saved for its own meaning, and its usefulness can be enhanced through digital means. 

Alberto Campagnolo is book conservator at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in Rome.