When we think about manuscript research, we think about the discoverability of text, codicology, art, and material culture, but above all, we expect to find what we are looking for by numbers, by descriptive terms, and by names.
In this talk, I will discuss some issues surrounding personal names in manuscripts from the Islamicate world, how names relate to personal identities, and the significance of this work for manuscript research. Moreover, I will introduce methodologies and best practices established for creating authority files in memory institutions of the Global North, allude to their origin and context, and draw a comparison to an alternative practice from the Global South. I will discuss how technology, and in particular Digital Humanities approaches, may both facilitate this work and at the same time raise new questions for the researcher/ librarian working with manuscripts regardless of their origin. This will be based on my involvement with FIHRIST, the online union catalog of manuscripts from the Islamicate world for the UK.
Recognizing the intellectual value of authority work and the substantial efforts to pursue it at scale has introduced new approaches beyond technology and method, highlighting the impact of human collaboration.