Ex Libris Project

Ex Libris is a project organized by Heather Wacha, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture, and driven by three graduate students from the iSchool at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As a digital humanities project, we seek to engage and educate a public audience about working with original sources, such as medieval and early modern manuscripts, and conducting original research thereupon.

A benign cover may hide exiting secrets… (University of Wisconsin Memorial Library, Special Collections D 1328)
For example … Isaac Newton’s handwriting at the top of the title page, suggesting the title should read thusly: “The Entrance Opened into the hidden Palace of the King.” (University of Wisconsin Memorial Library, Special Collections, D 1328.)

The project advocates for archives in general, and for the University of Wisconsin Special Collections in particular.  Its inception sprung from a desire to share the excitement of reading and working with historical manuscripts, to increase general awareness of how accessible these materials are, and to illuminate the unique connection at the University of Wisconsin with histories and historical context that come from handling and working with these manuscripts. It also offers graduate students the opportunity to gain experience organizing and executing an interdisciplinary, collaborative, digital humanities research project.

The Ex Libris project has come to fruition with a series of short, educational videos that showcase the stories and people behind manuscripts now held in Memorial Library Special Collections. The video series targets both a public and scholarly audience, revealing the accessibility of archival materials by breaking down manuscript barriers with a “you can do this too!” attitude.

The broad nature of all that encompasses Ex Libris requires the utilization of a wide range of skills. The students have honed their skills with Medieval/Renaissance Latin and vernacular paleographies and early type fonts, as well as cinematographic and video editing skills.

To access the videos and the video transcripts click on the links below, and follow these books on their journeys to UW Memorial Library’s Special Collections:


(Morgan Pabst – June 2018)




(Kyle Neill – May 2018)

Secrets Reveal’d



(Matthew Mickelson – May 2018)

Album Amicorum