Gina Fowler and Faculty Mentor: Rob McFarland, Department of German
Researchers seeking historical primary and secondary source documents in a foreign language must often overcome the challenge of finding those resources without actually travelling to their country of origin. The Sophie Digital Library is an online database that was created by BYU faculty to address a very specific aspect of this problem, by gathering and making available works and research specifically related to German-speaking women. Because the Sophie Digital Library enjoys a broad group of users across the world, who rely upon its digital collections, much effort is expended to provide reliable resources and documents related to German-speaking women from a variety of fields. For my ORCA project, my faculty mentor and I identified a well-known female composer from the 12th century named Hildegard von Bingen, who is not currently featured in the Sophie Digital Library. Hildegard von Bingen is an important historical figure, who is remembered for her theological treatises, her well-recorded visions from God about salvation, scriptures and the nature of the divine, and her musical compositions. Almost as important as her own works and writings is the research published about her life prior to the 19th century unification of Germany in an attempt to create a common Germanic history. Much of this research is primarily available as hard copies in European libraries and collections, available only to scholars with access to European archives or a very few North American research libraries, who hold non-circulating copies. In order to broaden the availability of these resources, I was able to digitize approximately 1200 pages of text, which will be added to the Sophie Digital Library website, along with a short biography and scholarly introduction based on my own research.
To obtain these texts, I relied heavily on the resources of the Austrian National Library, located in Vienna, Austria. I was able to use their database and search their archives in order to locate relevant sources from Hildegard’s lifetime, through the end of the 19th century. Once I had located these primary and secondary sources, I began the process of creating digital copies. Because these texts could only be handled within the library, I used the library’s reading rooms to review their contents and identify the most valuable and relevant information about Hildegard’s life and works. After I had selected these portions of the texts, I was able to use the library’s resources to scan and digitize them so that they could be transported and shared with the Sophie Digital Library at BYU. These documents are all written in old German script, and are currently being transcribed by student employees of the Sophie Digital Library project. Ultimately, they will become part of the online database located at sophie.byu.edu, and will be publicly available for use on the internet.
The documents that I collected included the following works: Leben und Schriften der heiligen Hildegard, Erste und Zweite Bänder, von Ludwig Clarus verdeutscht (Life and Words of Saint Hildegard, first and second volumes, translated into German by Ludwig Clarus); Die heilige Hildegard von Bingen als Naturforscherin, von Erich Wasmann (Saint Hildegard as a natural scientist, by Erich Wasmann); Die naturwissenschaftlichen Schriften der Hildegard von Bingen, von Dr. Paul Kaiser (The scientific works of Hildegard von Bingen, by Dr. Paul Kaiser); Die Prophetien der Hl. Hildegard von Bingen, von Gustav Sommerfeldt (The prophecies of Saint
Hildegard, by Gustav Sommerfeldt); Das Leben und Wirken der Heiligen Hildegardis nach den Quellen dargestellt, von J. Ph. Schmelzeis (The life and works of Saint Hildegardis according to the original sources, by J. Ph. Schmelzeis); and a facsimile of several of Hildegard’s compositions from the Wiesbaden Codex. These works range from her personal correnspondence with several prominent 12th century religious and political leaders, research about her role as a natural scientist, a discussion of her religious prophecies and selections of her musical compositions. The diversity of these works highlights the wide range of contributions made by Hildegard von Bingen.
Hildegard von Bingen is an important historical figure in both German and women’s history, because she was so respected as a female figure even while living in the 12th century. Because her own works are so renowned, she has been the focus of much scholarly research. This research is relevant not only for scholars within Germany, but for the whole international community of scholars of German women. The digital copies of these works that I created during this project will allow these scholars to have access to important research and primary sources that would otherwise be limited only to those able to visit the relevant German archives in person.