Medieval Memoria Online

7.1 A short history of the MeMO project


The Medieval Memoria Online project was created on the basis of four important cataloguing projects from the 1990s and 2000s:

  • The creation of inventories of memorial registers by Contactgroep Signum
  • The creation of inventories of memorial pieces in the (Arch)diocese Utrecht, supervised by Truus van Bueren
  • The creation of inventories of narrative sources in the Netherlands (Narrative Sources)
  • The creation of inventories of monasteries in the Netherlands (Monasticon Trajectense and Kloosterlijst)

The first two projects prompted the launch of the MeMO project, as the initiator of the MeMO project, Truus van Bueren, was directly involved in these projects. In the early nineties Contactgroep Signum initiated an inventory of medieval memorial registers from the area of the present-day Netherlands. From January 2004 onwards, this inventory project was continued by the Werkgroep Memorieboeken (project group Memorial Registers) with the participation of researchers from the universities of Leiden, Utrecht and VU Amsterdam. The inventory was extended, and descriptions were subsequently made of the registers in collaboration with a number of members of Signum.

Fig. 2. Homepage of Narrative Sources

In 1996, the research project The functions of art, ritual and text in medieval memoria (i.e. the Memoria project) had been begun at Utrecht University, supervised by Truus van Bueren. It produced an inventory of memorial pieces in the (Arch)diocese Utrecht, and subsequently the exhibition and publication Leven na de dood (Life after Death) (Museum Catharijneconvent Utrecht, 1999/2000). The data from the inventory were used in the database and website Representations of Medieval Memoria (Memoria in Beeld), created between 2007-2009.

The Investment Grant NWO Medium aims to strengthen the research infrastructure of the humanities. This subsidy, granted by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) enabled MeMO to make a large number of sources accessible for the research of the commemoration of the dead, through descriptions and photographs.

The grant application was a collaboration between the three participating universities and a number of (heritage) institutions. A conscious choice was made for types of sources for which there already were inventories: memorial pieces, tomb monuments and floor slabs, memorial registers and narrative sources that provide information on memoria, or had a function in memoria. For the narrative sources the project group Narrative Sources (Groningen and Ghent) were contacted, which had set up the online Narrative Sources database (NaSo) with grants from NWO and the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), among others. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) was approached for their inventory of tomb monuments and floor slabs. The Monasticon Trajectense project of VU Amsterdam was contacted for collaboration – they compiled two online repertories: Monasticon Trajectense and Kloosterlijst.

The institutions that agreed to cooperate are: the Foundation for Ecclesiastical Art and Artefacts Netherlands (SKKN, since 2013 the department for Cultural Heritage in Churches and Convents of Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht), the Center for Family History (CBG) in The Hague, the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) in the Hague and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) in Amersfoort. These institutions made photographs, information and expertise available to MeMO. The RCE moreover granted a subsidy for the production of photographs by a professional photographer. The CBG had the descriptions of the heraldry made by a staff member at a reduced fee.

DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services), that had collaborated on the development of the database Representations of Medieval Memoria (Memoria in Beeld), was contacted for the development of the data entry application and the user application. It also provided a large financial contribution.

The application was submitted with initiator Truus van Bueren (UU) as the main applicant and Koen Goudriaan (VU) and Dick de Boer (RUG) as co-applicants. Rolf de Weijert (UU) made a major contribution to the application (see the article by Truus van Bueren and Rolf de Weijert in Medieval Memoria Research). Kees Schuddeboom († 2010, UU) was an important consultant.

The subsidy was granted by NWO in February 2009. The project team started work the following May in Amsterdam, Groningen, The Hague and Utrecht, with Utrecht as the lead project partner.

The MeMO project was achieved not only through the contributions and support of the participating universities, the heritage institutions, DANS and NWO. A number of churches, private persons and companies have also made research data and photographic materials available. Moreover the project received substantial subsidies from the Stichting Professor Van Winter Fonds and from the K.F. Hein Fonds. Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht repeatedly made its photos available for publications for the newsletter MMR and for the introduction to the database. The museum also made a financial contribution for the concluding MeMO congress (30 January – 2 February 2013).


The implementation of the database

The following steps were taken in order to develop the end user application:

  • Establishing the Medieval Memoria Online Description Standard (MeMO DS). As there was no description standard for the specific field of research of the commemoration of the dead, MeMO developed MeMO DS in collaboration with an international group of experts. Because of the complexity of the source material, MeMO DS comprises two different sets of descriptive elements: one set for the objects and one for the texts. Each consists of an element set and the accompanying definitions. An additional description standard was developed for the institutions from which the sources originated.
    1. MeMO DS Objects (element set and definitions)
    2. MeMO DS Text carriers (element set and definitions)
    3. MeMO DS Institutions (element set and definitions)

MeMO DS is based on the implementation procedure developed for the international Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI; MeMO DS includes relevant descriptors of existing metadata standards such as EAD (Encoded Archival Description) and TEI (Text Encoding Initiative). See also the DANS Repository.

  • Establishing a data model based on MeMO DS (see below)
  • Development of the database module for the data entry staff; Medieval Memoria Oline Data Entry (MeMO DE)
  • Development of the web application for the end users: Medieval Memoria Online Information System (MeMO IS)
  • The data entry and quality control took place from August 2010 through May 2019
  • Writing academic introductions that function as background information and as a manual. The texts have been written with the intention of providing the users with separate units so they can navigate easily to the relevant texts.

Note that MeMO DS is generally well suited for projects which aim to inventory the use and functions of memorial objects, text carriers and texts.


Data model and Database system

MeMO DS was taken as the starting point for the development of a data model. This model formed the basis for the creation of the Database system. The database system comprises three sections:

Note that these overviews were last updated on: February 2011.