Digital World Map Broadens Scope for Middle Ages Teaching and Research

AUSTIN, Texas — Online users can now travel back in time to the medieval world by clicking through a collection of international research on the first digital platform of its kind from The University of Texas at Austin.

Catalan Atlas
Map of Asia in the 16th century. Image from the public domain

The Web portal known as “MappaMundi” — a Latin word meaning “world map” — presents the world of 500-1500 A.D. on a modern platform created by UT Libraries. It opens a gateway to the digital resources collected through the Global Middle Ages Project, founded in 2007 by Geraldine Heng, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at UT Austin; and Susan Noakes, a French and Italian professor at the University of Minnesota.

This digital world map highlights the increased research collaboration among different disciplines on campus, which is essential to UT Austin’s role as a premier research university.

It was launched Oct. 1 and can be found at globalmiddleages.org

“MappaMundi breaks down the isolation of specialty sites devoted to single subjects or geographic zones by offering a diversity of projects,” Heng said. “It invites users to literally walk around our virtual globe and see what the planetary past looked like, unbound by the limitations of area studies and regional studies.”

The portal features six digital projects, with more being developed during the next year, including “Global Ivory,” a collection of descriptions and histories of 12 ivory objects from around the world; and “Mapping the Mongol World: Cities.”

This growing collection allows scholars and teachers to study and analyze data, creating their own kaleidoscopic understanding of the world in deep time. 

“Curated Web resources like MappaMundi will become increasingly important to teaching and research because of their range, diversity and depth,” Heng said. “It’s fully multidisciplinary and serves academic communities in several disciplines, as well as the public.”

The Technology Innovation and Strategy team at UT Libraries built the site in nine months, after the Global Middle Ages Project partnered with the UT Libraries to secure a two-year Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellowship for Data Curation in Medieval Studies, a role filled by Ece Turnator, a scholar in Byzantine history.

“We are proud to have been involved with our campus partners in this important cross-disciplinary, collaborative digital humanities project. This fits well within the core mission of the modern academic library and demonstrates what’s possible at the nexus of scholarly enterprise and modern technology,” said Vice Provost and UT Libraries Director Lorraine Haricombe.