Our plan for the RRSI is to explore options for researchers to mark up manuscripts online. The premodern Mediterranean is ideal for collaborative research. Historians are often challenged by its cultural and linguistic diversity as well as by the wealth of sources that survive, particularly for those of us interested in archival research. During our research trips to Valencia (Dana Wessell Lightfoot) and Catalonia (Alexandra Guerson), we quickly realized the overwhelming richness of medieval Iberian archival records, particularly in terms of social and gender history, compelling a joint effort to add depth and breadth to our respective work. Our initial research projects concluded, we embarked on a collaborative project focusing on Jewish women in Catalonia, specifically the city of Girona, in the years leading up to the pogroms of 1391 and then considering the impact that this violence had on their lives until the expulsions of 1492. Drawing on our respective backgrounds in late medieval gender history (Wessell Lightfoot) and Jewish history (Guerson), this project provides a crucial meeting point for a gendered analysis of Jewish communities in the late 14th and early 15th centuries that is needed for medieval Spanish historiography. Home of some of the richest and most dynamic Jewish communities of medieval Iberia, Girona also has some of the best preserved archival collections for the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As a result of an intense regulamentation of civil life and the economic and political importance of cities such as Barcelona and Girona, the Arxiu Històric de Girona (AHG) and Arxiu Històric de Protocolos de Barcelona (AHPB) contain thousands of volumes of notarial documents for the period of our study. Including everything from records of sales, barter, leases, to issues related to matrimony (dowry, nuptial agreements), debts (censals, loans), services (labour contracts, apprenticeships), trade, as well as wills and inventories, these notarial collections have remained largely untouched by North American scholars, offering a unique opportunity for original research. Having now completed two short research trips to Girona and Barcelona and having written a few conference papers with our initial findings, one of our main challenges is working together to analyze the manuscript images we have collected. While we have come to rely on Zotero for our notes, Dropbox and Google Drive to shares images and files, and Google Docs to write, we have yet to find an appropriate tool that would allow us to annotate simultaneously the same image. We envision something similar to a Google Drive environment in which we can view the image but having the same options available for documents in Google Drive such as comments and chat. Being able to add keywords to each individual file would also be a bonus. There are commercial tools for annotating images, of course, such as Flickr, but because of restrictions on copyright this environment would have to be private to only the two of us rather than public. We hope to use the opportunity of the Roots and Routes Summer Institute this year to explore some possibilities for co-analyzing documents online, which would benefit all those who engage in collaborative research. A tool within a private SERAI group might be ideal.
Since writing this post, I have come across a tool called Annotate available at a.nnotate.com. I've tested it briefly and I have to say I really enjoy it! The key now is to find out how many document Dana and I will have to upload and incorporate it into our workflow.
See an example here.