Digital collection of sources


  • This dates back to 1997, when the Department had its first opportunity to apply digital technology to studying sources.
  • In the years that followed, a facility suitable for digitizing the microfilm collection was established within the Institute of Musicology and methods of digitizing and archiving were devised. Progress has been even since about 2000, with about 40 sources a year undergoing digitization. The work has meant that about 70 per cent of the microfilm collection of 900 items has been digitized.
  • The archive consists of digital copies of the sources, which are documented in detail, stored on CD and linked to an electronic register.
  • The entire collection is available to researchers at any time through the Institute’s internal network. This eases significantly the tasks of comparative examination.
  • The catalogue of digital sources has been available on the Internet since 2001 at




Further details

A strong chance of digitizing source research opened up for the Department in 1997. Starting to do so was a joint idea in the Department; setting it up and devising the methods for it were the work of Gábor Kiss, who has continued to direct the working group and supervise the Digital Source Collection.

Methods and practice of digitization were still not widespread at that time. The threefold aim of conserving the cultural heritage, easing research into it, and making it more accessible were clear, but it was not clear how to implement it. One possibility was direct digital photography of the libraries, but this was very costly and dependent on obtaining agreement from each library, calling for unforeseeable amounts of travel, as many surviving medieval Hungarian sources were held abroad. So the solution seemed to lie in digitizing the Department’s rich microfilm collection.

The other decisive question was whether to give the work out on commission or try to build up a workshop for film digitization within the Institute. Eventually the second course was chosen, and the studio infrastructure and digitization methods were devised over the following years.

Use of microfilm is a compromise in preservation terms, but it had practical advantages: the digitization could occur in bulk at a single site, and it made it far easier to utilize the material chosen for research.

Other major advantages are the flexibility of digital technology and multiplicity of uses to which a digitalized image can be put. Photographs of initially variable quality can be improved to clarify details important to research; physically damaged or fragmented material can be restored virtually, etc. Moreover digital images immeasurably ease and speed up publication (for scholarly or other purposes) and printing.

Some 70 per cent of more than 900 items are now available in digitized form, in the physical form of carefully attested CDs. All sources are kept in their original digitized copies, in their archive form, and in a form partly edited and rendered usable for handling. The last are the basic visual units of of the collection, held in examinable form with detailed information, and depending on length, supplied with pictorial information from one, two or more sources.

It was a decisive step to place the numerous, expanding source materials on a single centrally accessible computer, with no limit to the number of sources simultaneously examined. Notably, what researchers receive on CD or over the computer network is not just a mechanically digitized copy of a physical entity (whether the entity be the source or a microfilm of it). It is an inspected source interpreted and stored with a researcher’s care ‒ “verified” source material intended to meet to the utmost research needs of quality, availability, origination and attestation. This type of preparatory work became possible through digital techniques. To sum up, digitization brought a hitherto unimagined change in the logistics of preparing research efforts, lectures or publications.

However, this vast collection of digital images would be dead material if it were not linked to the requisite registration systems, whose use it facilitated. The idea had arisen with the microfilm collection that its content should not be recorded only in a traditional inventory book, but in a more up-to-date electronic inventory that would ease the pursuit of information in the material and contain more information as a starting point for researchers. In their detail, the microfilm collection and Digital Collection based upon it carried more than a “library” inventory book of basic information in standardized form. It held not only the data necessary for identifying the source (archives, sigla, type of book), but its notation typology, provenance, and other research-enhancing information. These are augmented by data on the features of the digital version (colour or black-and-white, resolution, extent, quality of the pictures, etc.) and by a specimen page of each.

Another prospect for digitization is to link the pictures of the sources with an index of content. The index (a list of textual and melodic units – items) is both an aid to orientation in the sources and a research method historically independent of the digitization. Frequent use of it resulted partly from the difficulty of access to the sources, but also because digitization had itself brought significant change in the latter. The content indices prepared in standardized form register the essence of the codices’ liturgical content, and make them easily comparable without resort to the codices themselves, with their very varied and multifarious information. The Digital Collection becomes complete with the conjunction of the indices and the digital images, which complement each other well: the former ease orientation, the latter give rise to the checking of the content indices, which includes interpretation of the codex. Attached to the compilation of the content indices are some scientific projects. With the Office, see the CAO‒ECE, and with the Mass, the Gradualia programme.