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Contact: Colum Hourihane (609) 258-6363

July 18, 2000

Princeton's Index of Christian Art, Morgan Library to catalog medieval manuscripts

Princeton, N.J. -- Princeton University's Index of Christian Art and the Morgan Library in New York have received a $1 million grant from the Homeland Foundation to create a catalog of 1,000 years of Western iconography in the library's collection, allowing researchers to view the manuscripts through the Internet for the first time.

More than 30,000 illustrations will be digitized from 500 manuscripts in the Morgan Library's collection and then analyzed and catalogued in Princeton's Index of Christian Art. The project marks a giant leap in the exposure of Morgan Library's medieval art collection, which has never been photographed before. In addition, it marks the first time that the Index of Christian art has catalogued any collection in its entirety.

Princeton's Index of Christian Art -- the largest archive of medieval art and the most comprehensive database of Christian iconography in the world -- holds descriptive records of more than 200,000 works of art.

"The Index is a unique resource throughout the art historical world, and for most of this century it has drawn scholars to Princeton University to conduct research in art and medieval history," said Princeton University President Harold T. Shapiro. "Adding searchable data and images from the Morgan Library's holdings to the index's database will enable scholars to study manuscript paintings in the library's collections within wider artistic contexts."

Cataloguing the manuscripts will be a long and complicated process. Scholars from Princeton University and curators from the Morgan Library are working together to ensure that the resulting illustrations are true to the originals.

Images taken by the Index's photographers at the Morgan Library are sent to Princeton, where they are scanned and analyzed using image software. Both Index and Morgan Library staff members examine the quality of the digital images, and scholars at the Index analyze the subject matter and create accompanying electronic catalog records.

With so many manuscripts and so much detail to record, the project could take as long as eight years to complete. "This is a huge undertaking," said Colum Hourihane, director of the Index of Christian Art. "The Morgan Library has been collecting art since 1924."

Hourihane noted that in addition to scholars, undergraduates and even high school students will be able to view the manuscripts on-line. "It's good to get new, young students using both this material and the Index in general," Hourihane said. "It's getting to a new body of scholars."

The Homeland Foundation is a private New York foundation that owns and operates historic properties and makes grants to cultural, educational and religious organizations.

Completion of the project is scheduled for 2005; however, images and records are available on the Index of Christian Art as soon as they are created. About 2,000 of Morgan Library's records and images are already available through Princeton's Index, which is restricted to subscribers and is available at

Records and images from the Morgan Library also will be available in the library on its database, CORSAIR, by early 2002. Details are available at