Please Read: A Personal Letter from Todd Rester, Junius Institute Director

Greetings PRDL users and supporters of the Junius Institute,

Just about five years ago, a group of students at Calvin Theological Seminary, with the encouragement and guidance of Dr. Richard Muller, began to collect and share links to primary sources in theology that were increasingly becoming available in digital formats. The original list was limited to sources available on Google Books, and included 331 titles. After proceeding first to a wiki format and later to what is the Post-Reformation Digital Library today, we’ve added more than 4,500 authors and nearly 64,000 titles from digital collections and libraries the world over. There really is nothing else like PRDL out there for early modern theological and philosophical research, and we’re pleased that it has come so far in so short a time.

I’m reminiscing for a couple of reasons. First, I want to thank you for your encouragement, support, and use of the PRDL throughout these years. The whole point of PRDL from the beginning was to make available our individual findings as students and researchers to a broader audience, particularly those that are not blessed with easy access to sources in other venues. Every time you find and download a PDF you found via PRDL that is useful to you in your study, this founding purpose has been fulfilled.

Second, I wanted to let you know that we are at a critical stage in the development and maturation of PRDL. Earlier this year we founded the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary to be a formal and permanent home for PRDL as well as other digital research projects. The encouragement from the seminary community has been outstanding, and we’ve been able to develop a variety of projects already this year, including unveiling the Scholastica project, a feature embedded in PRDL that adds a new layer of understanding to the primary sources listed in PRDL.

From the beginning, PRDL and now the Junius Institute have been a labor of love for a group of students, and they will continue to be a passion for us. As many of us have graduated or are graduating, however, the need for financial support to continue focusing on developing digital research tools and methods becomes more significant. For projects like PRDL to be sustainable in the long-term, we need to move toward a model that will fund upkeep, maintenance, development, and improvement.

In the days ahead, we’ll be looking at all of our options for fundraising and development to support the work of the Junius Institute, including PRDL. But as we close out this year, you have a real opportunity to make a difference in the development of digital research on the Reformation era. If you have ever benefited from PRDL or have appreciated the helpfulness of our efforts, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Junius Institute at Calvin Seminary. You can make a donation online at Calvin Seminary via this secure form, or you can send a check.

We know that there are many worthy causes that vie for financial support, particularly at this time of year. And yet this truly is an important moment for PRDL and the Junius Institute. Contributions of any size will help show that our efforts mean something to scholars and researchers all over the world.

Even if you aren’t able to make a financial contribution at this time, please consider sharing some thoughts about how the work of the Junius Institute and PRDL has helped you in your work in the comments section below.

Thank you for your support over these years and your continued use of PRDL.
Todd Rester
Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research

Our Informal Anniversary

Our research curator David Sytsma is teaching the doctoral methods course at Calvin Seminary this fall, and he recently passed on that he was discussing the increasing availability of sources that have come to be in the last five years in a recent class session.

He then went digging through some old emails, and found that the original finding list that would grow to become the PRDL, first in wiki and later in the current PRDL 2.0 format, was circulated in October 2008, just over five years ago. You can read more about the transition and development of PRDL in this piece from the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

David, who directs the PRDL project, writes further, “Looking back through the email thread, it was Jordan who suggested on Nov. 7 that we start a wiki and think about forming a digital research center.” So this day a sort of informal five year anniversary for the beginning of the PRDL and now the Junius Institute!

PRDL now covers over 4,500 authors, with listings of more than 85,000 volumes. Take a look at the original finding list to see where it all began, a short five years ago.

Calvin Theological Seminary launches new digital research center for Reformation studies

Grand Rapids, Mich. (April 22, 2013)—Scholars and students have a new research center devoted to developing digital tools, resources, and scholarship focused on the religious reformations of the early modern era, particularly arising out of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. CalvinSemLogoThe Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary is a natural fit for the seminary community, seminary president Julius Medenblik said. “We’re pleased to see the ongoing efforts of faculty, students, and alumni of the seminary develop into a formal home for projects with exciting possibilities for coming to a better understanding the multi-faceted legacy of the Reformation,” he said.

The institute is conceived as a forum to promote research into the Reformation and post-Reformation periods, covering the 16th to the 18th centuries, through the use of digital tools, skills, and resources. The Junius Institute will house the Post-Reformation Digital Library (PRDL), an electronic database covering thousands of authors and primary source documents on the development of theology and philosophy in these centuries. With the click of a few buttons, researchers can now download digital files with source material from hundreds of years ago. Before recent large-scale digitization efforts, like those undertaken by Google and many European libraries, access to these kinds of sources had been difficult, costly, or even impossible. In some cases sources were simply lost or unknown.
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