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


Finding Archives and Manuscripts Across Oxford’s Unique Special Collections (FAMOUS) Phase 2 is a 3-year programme of work, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to realize the Bodleian Libraries’ vision of a connected, user-friendly, robust and adaptable digital environment for the University of Oxford’s manuscripts and archives.

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

The primary outputs of the project will be:

  • A new user interface (recently named MARCO: Manuscripts and Archives at Oxford) and search functionality enabling researchers to search across manuscript and archival holdings at Oxford in a way never possible.
  • Improved, integrated technical systems within the library.
  • New online catalogue descriptions from Bodleian special collections through the FAMOUS Exemplar Projects (Asian and Middle Eastern Manuscripts, Early Modern Manuscripts and Archives, and Western Medieval Manuscripts).

Project timeline

The project is scheduled to run from October 2019 to December 2023.

Further information

New user interface, improved dataflow and integrated systems

The project aims to create a researcher-driven and easy to use discovery interface, MARCO, which will allow manuscript and archival materials from the Bodleian and Oxford’s colleges to be searched together. This discovery layer will enable new and existing audiences to better access the materials and will offer 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 will build on core existing systems: Digital Bodleian, our manuscript TEI catalogues and Bodleian Archives and Manuscripts. To achieve the transformative linking between systems and data flow that will enable the discovery layer to operate effectively, a single system of Persistent Identifiers will be 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 will concentrate 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 will help 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 will focus 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 these currently lack any online presence, and their finding aids (if these exist) greatly limit discoverability. This editorial and encoding work will include 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 will identify subsets of Asian and Middle Eastern collections, then, working closely with relevant curatorial colleagues, the project’s Information Analysts will conduct an audit of Asian and Middle Eastern collections held in Oxford and identify pathways for delivery of Asian and Middle Eastern collections content across Oxford. Having identified the desired subsets, they will then create TEI records for a broad sample of items in each group and establish a fully documented workflow for each category of material.

The project’s information analysts will work closely with curatorial colleagues to analyse Asian and Middle Eastern collections held in Oxford. They will identify subsets of Asian and Middle Eastern collections, and propose pathways for the delivery of descriptive information related to these diverse materials. TEI descriptions for a representative sample of the collections will be created, and a fully documented workflow for creating descriptions of each category material will be 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 this project, please contact us on famousproject@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

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

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