Manuscript acquisitions make history tangible

Libraries, Fine Arts, Graduate Studies, Humanities

“It was like an epiphany,” UVic PhD student Brian Pollick says about a trip to Italy to study art. “I wanted to provide ways to give materiality to a bygone age.” Brian and his wife Heather Lindstedt worked closely with UVic Libraries to establish the Medieval Manuscript Fund, which has helped build one of the most extensive collections of medieval manuscripts west of Toronto. “We encourage people to touch them and turn the pages,” says Brian.

One of the manuscripts acquired through the Medieval Manuscript Fund is an Italian Book of Hours (Codex Pollick) from the 15th century. The illuminated manuscript brings thoughts, beliefs, and rituals of Medieval Europe to life for students. “On every page, there are oily and dirty marks. When they hold it in their hands, students almost immediately see that the marks are where their thumbs settle naturally, so you suddenly feel like you can go through time,” says Dr. Adrienne Williams Boyarin, associate professor in the Department of English.

Dr. Williams Boyarin’s students spend each semester transcribing and translating manuscripts that UVic has purchased. “A textbook can’t offer you that type of learning,” says Williams Boyarin. Once a student project is complete, it is posted online for readers worldwide to access. “It creates this sense of community and cross-course collaboration when the donor gives to us,” says Williams Boyarin. “The library lets the students use it and access it, and in return, we give back to the library and community by making these texts more accessible.”

Brian’s donations to help enrich UVic Libraries’ collection of medieval manuscripts has also enhanced his own studies. After retiring, Brian came to UVic to complete a master’s degree and is now pursuing his doctorate in Art History and Visual Studies, at the age of 72. “It gives me a sense of purpose,” says Brian. “Donations can be one tool to help you achieve a legacy that is very important to you.”

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Keywords: philanthropy, library, digital humanities, Europe, art history and visual studies

People: Brian Pollick


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