New How-To Videos

MESA has finished developing a series of How-To videos designed to help new MESA users become familiar with the basics of MESA. Feel free to use them and share them with new MESA users, with potential MESA users, and with your students!

We plan to create more How-To videos as well as more detailed videos for pedagogical purposes. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for new videos as well!

Watch the playlist of How-To videos below, all of which are hosted at the MESA YouTube Channel.


New for MESA Peer Review: Piers Plowman and The Letters of Pope Gregory VII

Two projects are being prepared to go into MESA. These are up for Tier 1 peer review, which means that unless there are serious concerns they will be added to MESA. So, please take a minute to look at these projects and send any concerns/praise to

Database of the Letters of Pope Gregory VII. Directed by Dr. Christian Schwaderer at the Univ. Tuebingen, the database aspires to provide information on how and where the letters of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) were transmitted, used and copied. It does not (yet) provide transcriptions of the letters. MESA will index records for each collection and for each individual letter listed in the database.


Piers Plowman Electronic Archive. Includes transcriptions and an edition of Piers Plowman, currently including the “B” text only. The Archive enables instructors, students, and researchers to explore late medieval literary and manuscript culture through the many variations of Piers Plowman. The long-term goal of the project is the creation of a complete archive of the medieval and early modern textual tradition of Langland’s poem. MESA will index records for each manuscript, for each passus from each manuscript, and each passus from the edition.


Thank you so much for helping MESA grow into a robust and valuable resource for medievalists! Please feel free to share this message on other listservs.

To receive all notices of projects being reviewed for MESA, please join the MESA review list:

New MESA projects for peer review!

We are preparing two new projects for MESA, the first to go with Tier 1 peer review (up until now, new projects have just been added with no review). Per our process document, Tier 1 “consists of affirming that a digital project or resource meets sufficient scholarly and technological standards for inclusion in MESA followed by open review by the user community.” You are our user community! So, please take a minute to look at these projects and reply to this post with any concerns / praise. We also encourage you to join the MESA listserv, through that list you’ll receive a message every time new projects are ready for review. (To subscribe, send an email to with the following text in the body of the message: subscribe mesa).

Both of these incoming projects are collections of Middle English. TEAMS Middle English Texts are already indexed in MESA, and adding these will give us a particular strength in Middle English, which is quite exciting. Please share this message with any individuals or groups you think will be interested in this news.

The projects:

Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse. This is a longstanding project at the University of Michigan, to present full-text of published editions of Middle English texts. There are a handful of these that we won’t be indexing because of copyright concerns, but we’ve planning to take most of them. MESA will have records for each book, with the full-text indexed for searching.


Digital Index of Middle English Verse. Digital revision of the Index of Middle English Verse (1943) and its Supplement (1965). Records provide first and last lines, scansion, and a list of manuscripts in which each verse is found. MESA will have records for each verse, and for each manuscript, and these records will be linked.


MESA is now accepting new members!

The Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA) is pleased to announce that it is now accepting applications from electronic projects and resources wishing to join the federation. Information on our review process and the submission workflow may be found at

MESA has instituted a new two-tier review process. All projects must undergo a process of open review to ensure that scholarly and technological standards are met. An optional second tier is available for scholars who wish to have a more traditional review process for purposes such as tenure and promotion and will be overseen by our editorial board.

All conversations pertaining to open review will be conducted on the MESA listserv. In order to subscribe, please send an email to with the following text in the body of the message:  subscribe mesa.

We encourage both established projects and those nearing publication to apply. Please address questions or comments to

MESA Launches!

We are pleased to announce that MESA is live:

Read about MESA, click through to the Advanced Search, create an account, add some tags, join in (or start) a discussion!

Many thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for funding, to the MESA Steering Committee for steering us through the implementation process, to our project partners for agreeing to have their projects and collections included in the first iteration of MESA, and to all the medievalists who have expressed support and interest through the last year.

Any comments, thoughts, or criticism, please contact us at

Most Sincerely,

Tim Stinson and Dot Porter, MESA co-directors

Welcome to MESA!

Welcome to MESA, a newly formed federation of scholars, projects, institutions, and organizations engaged in digital scholarship within the field of medieval studies. Please check back often as we will be adding new members, exhibitions, and teaching resources. You can also keep up-to-date by liking us on Facebook.

If you wish to have a project or resource considered for inclusion in MESA, please contact us at

MESA wishes to thank the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its generous support of this initiative.


MESA Required and Recommended Fields

This post lists all MESA fields, required and not required, and describes their format and purpose in the system. This list should be useful for those interested in having their projects included in the MESA federation.

Required Fields


CUSTOM NAMESPACE actually consists of two parts – the Custom namespace and rdf:about

Custom namespace is a short code to identify the project. It is formatted as two pieces of text separated by a colon. The text before the colon identifies the main project or collection; the text after the colon identifies the collection or subcollection.



rdf:about is a URI, a code in the format of a URL that uniquely identifies the record. Should not be the same as the URL pointing to the object. Based on a pattern incorporating a unique identifier for the object.

examples: (for a manuscript) (for an illustration) (for a text)


A shorthand reference to the contributing project or collection. Single word (no spaces)




Title of the object. Format will depend on the type of object, and its context. Titles may be created by combining fields from the source metadata.


Laylá and Majnūn reunited in the wilderness, W.605, fol. 100a (Walters)
Pierre Alexandre, Praelectiones de matrimonio (Parker)
Wing, right (fragment of a diptych), 1 register, 1 arch across (plaquette) (Courtauld)
Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 48 : Chaucer, Canterbury Tales (to l. 1061) (e-codices)


A value (may be more than one) to describe the medium or format of an object, drawn from a controlled list

Available Type Values
Interactive Resource
Moving Image
Physical Object
Still Image


Used to identify individuals or institutions involved in the creation of an object. There may be multiple roles identified.



There is a complete list on the Collex Wiki.


Identifies disciplines that may be interested in the object. Drawn from a controlled list.


Manuscript Studies
Religious Studies

There is a complete list on the Collex Wiki.


Basic descriptive genre for the object. Drawn from a controlled list.


Visual Art

There is a complete list on the Collex Wiki.


MESA prefers both a label and a machine-readable date, although only one is required.

Labels can be any human-readable date, and will be displayed in MESA.


14th century
not before 1475
c. 1100

Machine-readable dates must be either

  • a four-digit year, e.g. “1425” or “0850”
  • two four-digit years, separated by a comma, indicating a span of time e.g. “1425,1450”
  • three digits followed by “u”, indicating a decade, e.g. “145u”
  • two digits followed by “uu”, indicating a century, e.g. “08uu”

Machine-readable dates are not displayed, but are used in MESA for searching. If no machine-readable date is provided, the object will not be find-able through a date search.


This is the most important field in MESA: the field that contains the URL that points from MESA to the digital object described in the record. Preferably this would be a PURL or Handle (that is, a URL that will never change, and can always be guaranteed to point to the same object no matter what happens to the system storing that object), but it should at least be a URL.



Not required, but recommended

MESA requires using the language codes from the ISO 639-2 Language Code List. The content of dc:language may be either from the first column (ISO 639-2 Code), the third column (English name of Language), or the fourth column (French name of Language).


French, Middle (ca.1400-1600)



Not required, but recommended
A statement of any changes in ownership and custody of the object since its creation that are significant for its authenticity, integrity, and interpretation. Includes origin.



Old shelf mark on the tail edge reading 2987


Is the digital version of the object “free”, i.e. in the public domain or released under an open access license? Yes or No.


Not required, but recommended

Data in this field will be available for full-text searching in MESA.

You can either point (using a URL) to a plain text (not encoded) transcription or description located somewhere on a web server, or place that plain text in the FULL TEXT field

MESA has many examples of FULL TEXT being used in different ways:

  • incipit and explicit only (St. Gall)
  • transcription of manuscript (Rose)
  • full manuscript description (Walters, DIAMM)
  • keywords, various description information (Courtauld)


Not required, but recommended

Points to the web-accessible, full-size digital image of the object.

Providing IMAGE enables the collection to be used in the Exhibit Builder area of Collex.


Not required, but recommended

Points to the web-accessible, thumbnail-sized digital image of the object.

Providing THUMBNAIL means a small version of the object will be visible for browse and search results

For those projects that are unable to provide thumbnail images of objects, we use a logo (either a project logo – BL, Courtauld – or the MESA logo)


The federation is MESA

Not Required


An alternative title, for example a nickname for a manuscript when the official title is provided in TITLE.


Old English Illustrated Hexateuch (when TITLE is BL Cotton Claudius B iv.)


Title of the larger work, resource, or collection of which the present object takes part. Can be used for the title of a journal, anthology, book, online collection, etc.

Rarely (if ever) used in MESA. Could be used to identify the name of the project, if it were different from the name of the archive.


Subject keywords that can be used for searching. Not currently displayed. May be populated from a project’s existing keyword lists. This is a more formal alternative to FULL TEXT SEARCH described below


Points to the web-accessible source code for the data in XML format.

Use for example if you have a TEI-XML encoded manuscript description available in source



Points to the web-accessible source code for the data in HTML format.

Use for example if you have an HTML version of a manuscript description

Do not use if it is the same as the object you are pointing to


(Rarely used in MESA)


Not required

Was the FULL TEXT created using OCR? Yes or No. (Not used so far in MESA)


Not required

Provides the value of CUSTOM NAMESPACE rdf:about (the unique identifier of the record) for the record that the current record is a child of. For example, a record describing an illustration for a manuscript would point to the unique identifier for the record of the manuscript.


Not required

Provides the value of CUSTOM NAMESPACE rdf:about (the unique identifier of the record) for the record or records that are children of the current record. For example, a record describing a manuscript would point to the unique identifier for records describing illustrations contained in the manuscript, or texts contained in the manuscripts.

Workshop at Kzoo

MESA is sponsoring a workshop, led by Dot Porter and Tim Stinson, at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI. The workshop is scheduled for Friday, May 10, 10am, Waldo Library Classroom A. This room is a computer lab. No registration is required, just come if you are interested in learning more about MESA.

In this workshop, we’ll do three things:

First, we’ll demonstrate MESA’s functionality and use. This will answer the most basic question: What is MESA, and what can it be used for? This part of the workshop will be useful both for a generally interested audience of scholars, and for individuals and groups who may be interested in having their projects in MESA.

Next, we’ll practice using MESA for research purposes. This will be the most hands-on part of the workshop, and we encourage participants to come ready to search, comment, and perhaps even to start to build scholarship in the workshop.

Finally, we’ll present background on how federating projects into MESA actually works. This part of the workshop is aimed particularly at individuals and groups who may be interested in having their projects in MESA, although others may be interested to learn about the process. This will involve some technical discussion and in-workshop coding examples. Workshop attendees representing projects are invited to bring project metadata with them, and we will work on extracting the RDF metadata required by MESA during the workshop. If you are interested in having your project used as an in-workshop example, please email to express interest.


MESA is now on Facebook

MESA has gone social! Like us on Facebook.

While we are waiting…

The MESA team is hard at work indexing the first sets of metadata into the system! The first set includes manuscripts from e-Codices, Parker on the Web, and the Walters Art Museum, plus publications from the medieval collections from InteLex (including the works of Peter Abelard, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and others). By the time we launch in early 2013, we’ll have additional collections in as well. We have also been working, with the support and advice of our Steering Committee, on refinements to the search facility that should serve to make it more “medievalist friendly” than the search interface currently used in NINES and 18thConnect (our partner nodes in the Advanced Research Consortium).

While we are waiting for that, we would like to share a presentation by MESA co-director Dot Porter, “Medievalists’ Use of Digital Resources and the Development of MESA“. Dot first presented this as a keynote at the European Summer School in Digital Humanities in Leipzig, Germany, July 2012, and this is a recording of the same presentation, presented in the Digital Library Brown Bag series at Indiana University Bloomington.


The Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA) is a federated international community of scholars, project, institutions, and organizations engaged in digital scholarship within the field of medieval studies. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MESA seeks both to provide a community for those engaged in digital medieval studies and to meet emerging needs of this community, including making recommendations on technological and scholarly standards for electronic scholarship, the aggregation of data, and the ability to discover and repurpose this data.

This presentation will focus on the discovery aspect of MESA, and how it might serve the non-digital medievalist who may nevertheless be interested in finding and using digital resources. Starting with a history of medievalists and their interactions with digital technology as told through three data sets (the International Congress on Medieval Studies (first held in 1962), (a digital project database in the UK, sponsored by JISC and the Arts & Humanities Research Council), and two surveys, from 2002 and 2011, that looked specifically at medievalists’ use of digital resources), I will draw out some potential issues that this history has for the current developers of digital resources for medievalists, and investigate how MESA might serve to address these issues.

The full recording (audio + screen) is here: