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New Resource Provides a Global Perspective of the Middle Ages

by on January 4, 2016

Often, when we think of the Middle Ages, we think about England, France, or Italy. The vast variety of art to come out of those regions and historical events like the Black Death are part of the reason, not to mention the tendency of U.S. schools to teach primarily Western European history. So it’s interesting to see a resource that tries to address this time period with a global perspective. While exploring Library Journal, I came across an article about a great new resource called Global Middle Ages. Created by the University of Texas at Austin, Mappamundi is the online web portal for the Global Middle Ages Project (GMAP), which covers the period between 500-1500 CE.[1] The website “links to a series of Digital Humanities projects by scholars from around the world,” and “focus[es] on areas outside Europe.”[2] Some of these areas include North America, Africa, and China. This resource is distinctive and interesting and contains a map, downloadable scholarly articles, and even a virtual 3D model of medieval Plasencia, Spain. Particularly intriguing is the project called “The North American Middle Ages: Big History from the Mississippi Valley to Mexico.” This is certainly a unique topic, and one that is not usually discussed in school curriculum.

Funded by a Mellon/CLIR grant, this digital humanities project allows “libraries the opportunity to meet patrons where they are: online.”[3] While smaller public libraries may not have the staff or resources to create their own similar project, they can certainly use these resources at the reference desk. The Global Middle Ages Project is perfect for high school and college students to explore; it can aid them in learning about various subjects including history, anthropology, or art history. The virtual world of Plasencia does require downloading a plug-in, but it is a wonderful interactive teaching tool, especially considering that there is still a need for authoritative educational web tools like GMAP. I also think the fact that the fifteen scholarly articles on the site are free to read and download is great, improving access to scholarly publishing and research. The topics covered on GMAP provide an enlightening and divergent outlook on the world during this period. I’m curious to see what other projects the creators will come up with in the future!

[1] M. Catherine Hirschbiel , “Professor, Library Map the Medieval World,” November 19, 2015, Library Journal, http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2015/11/digital-resources/professor-library-map-the-medieval-world/#_  .

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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