FAMOUS: Finding Archives and Manuscripts Across Oxford’s Unique Special Collections


Finding Archives and Manuscripts Across Oxford’s Unique Special Collections (FAMOUS) Phase 2 was a 3-year programme of work, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Bodleian Libraries' vision of a connected, user-friendly, robust and adaptable digital environment for the University of Oxford’s manuscripts and archives was successfully realized in October 2023.

The overall aim was to transform the Bodleian Libraries’ systems for discovery, management, and publication of content related to Oxford’s special collections. The planned work dramatically improved access to and use of such content by researchers, both in Oxford and remotely, and the wider public.

The primary outputs of the project were:

Further information

New user interface, improved dataflow and integrated systems

The project created a researcher-driven and easy-to-use discovery interface, MARCO, which allows manuscript and archival materials from the Bodleian and Oxford’s colleges to be searched together. This discovery layer enables new and existing audiences to better access the materials and offers a fit-for-purpose environment for finding information about Oxford’s unique collections.

Data flow between systems (many of which users never see) is vital. The project built on core existing systems: Digital Bodleian, our manuscript TEI catalogues and Bodleian Archives and Manuscripts. We achieved the transformative linking between systems and data flow that enabled the discovery layer to operate effectively, and a single system of Persistent Identifiers was implemented across the relevant systems.

New digitised content (Special Collections - Exemplar Project)

A set of exemplar projects have been designed to explore how data will flow between systems, especially where institutional practice differs regarding how collections are defined and divided. These exemplar projects feature collections from Early Modern Manuscripts & Archives, Western Medieval Manuscripts and Asian and Middle Eastern Manuscripts.

Early Modern Manuscripts & Archives

The team concentrated on the creation of the first ever online descriptions for the heart of the Bodleian’s early modern collections contained in three of the Quarto catalogues – Ashmole, Tanner, and Rawlinson. This work helped to define an approach to these materials that might then be offered as a model for college collections containing similar materials.

bodleian library ms tanner 79 fol 67r

Bodleian Library MS. Tanner 79

Western Medieval Manuscripts

The medieval exemplar project focused on the major collections of largely (but not exclusively) medieval charters and documents (mostly title deeds and manorial records) held by the Bodleian and by Oxford colleges. Almost all were lacking any online presence, and their finding aids greatly limited discoverability. This editorial and encoding work included developing a set of guidelines specifying how medieval charters and documents should be described using TEI.


A section of an illuminated manuscript showing a 3D map

Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Misc. 378

Asian and Middle Eastern Manuscripts

This activity has identified subsets of Asian and Middle Eastern collections and, working closely with relevant curatorial colleagues, the team conducted an audit of Asian and Middle Eastern collections held in Oxford. They identified pathways for delivery of Asian and Middle Eastern collections content across Oxford too. Having identified the desired subsets, they created TEI records for a broad sample of items in each group and established a fully documented workflow for each category of material.

TEI descriptions for a representative sample of the collections were created, and a fully documented workflow for creating descriptions of each category material were established.


A painted image from a manuscript depicting a rabbit and an elephant in bright colours

Bodleian Library MS. Pococke 400

Contact us

If you have a question about our service, please contact us on famousproject@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

Visit the new user interface.

Support for this project is provided, in part, by a grant from the Mellon Foundation:

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