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Home > iSGTW - 24 November 2010 > Image of the Week - The digital Bayeux Tapestry


Image of the Week - The Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition

In this portion of The Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition, a time line (in black) runs along the bottom while the highlighted portion shows the Saxons’ King Harold sitting on his throne. A fiery object in the sky (Halley’s Comet?) is seen in the embroidered border above and to the side of his head — the ‘hairy star’ was considered a hint of Harold’s fate. Original courtesy Bayeux Tapestry Museum

The Bayeux Tapestry is a 224-foot long piece of medieval embroidery that depicts the sequence of events that happened when the Normans invaded England and defeated the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

As well as a work of art, the tapestry is also an historical document crammed full of images and text spread out over 173 separate panels.

Unfortunately, at over half the length of a football field, this bulky, fragile document is very hard to study traditionally.

To help solve this problem, medieval scholar Martin Foys of New Jersey’s Drew University created The Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition, complete with commentary that scholars can scroll through. Among other things, it contains a beginner's guide to the “plot” of the work;  genealogical charts of the various kings and nobles involved; the ability to toggle between English and Latin in the inscriptions; a glossary to the people, places and events; an outline that enables non-sequential navigation of the tapestry; an animated map; and 360-degree video panoramas of the battlefield as it looks today.

In a review of this work and other digital projects in the humanities, The New York Times said: “The traditional model of the solitary humanities professor, toiling away in an archive or spending years composing a philosophical treatise or historical opus is replaced in this project with contributions from a global community of experts."

—Dan Drollette, iSGTW


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