The material turn in fields that rely on printed matter has led to interest in how those texts and images were—and are—produced. Those objects, including cut woodblocks, etched/engraved metal plates, and lithographic stones, could be fundamental to research. Tens of thousands survive from the last 500 years, but the vast majority are inaccessible because they do not fit into the cataloguing structures and controlled vocabularies used by the libraries, archives and museums that hold them. Those that are accessible tend to be under-used, as few researchers are equipped to understand them or communicate about them across disciplinary boundaries. Even the most basic term is debated: to book historians/in libraries, pieces of type are multiples cast from a matrix (mould); to artists and art historians/in museums, the resulting types are the matrices (the sheets printed from them are the multiples).
As new possibilities to catalogue and digitise these artefacts are revealing their research potential, a common framework could advance knowledge of image-printing processes and images’ role in the print trade. This twelve-month project will create a research network and distil a single, interdisciplinary best practice from existing standards across disciplines and heritage collections to train researchers to engage with them.
As a precondition for this training is consensus on terminology, methodology and best practice, (1) an international, interdisciplinary working group will be formed. It will agree on recommendations following (2) a conference and (3) closed summit in September 2017. The aim of BARSEA scheme is to cascade benefits to early career researchers, so this framework will be put into practice at (4) a training session for ECRs in December 2017, refined, and (5) published open access in March 2018 so that researchers in many places and disciplines can use these objects in their research from the start of their academic careers.
This research is supported by a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award.