The Early Manuscripts Electronic Library or EMEL uses digital technologies to make manuscripts and other historical source materials accessible for study and appreciation by scholars and the public.

How we work

  • EMEL leaders identify manuscripts (or other historical materials), which are inaccessible to scholars due to geographical, political, or technological barriers, and develop projects to make them digitally accessible for study.
  • EMEL often leads projects from their start (grant writing) to their conclusion (publication); or we can provide specialized imaging services to an existing project.
  • EMEL welcomes project proposals and often invites a scholar or scientist to serve as an external project director.

Values we offer

Technological innovation

Overcoming barriers, which render manuscripts inaccessible, can require technological innovation. For example —

• Many manuscripts are illegible due to damage, deterioration or erasure. At St. Catherine’s Monastery of the Sinai, EMEL is working with scientists to improve and expand the methods of spectral imaging used to recover illegible writing in ancient manuscripts.

(See Sinai Palimpsests Project.)

• Limitations of time and money can prevent the digitization of a large collection of fragile manuscripts. EMEL worked with Stokes Imaging of Austin to design a computer-controlled cradle, which supports fragile manuscripts and improves efficiency and lowers costs of digitization. (See Next-Generation System.)

Service (“non-acquistiveness”)

EMEL is a service organization and does not retain copies of the digital images it creates. Therefore, EMEL can advise a library or museum in how best to archive and publish images of its holdings without prejudice or self-interest.

Responsible access

All EMEL projects seek to balance the interests of the library or museum, which preserves precious artifacts, with the interests of scholars, who desire access for study, and foundations, which want the results of funded projects to be published. Since EMEL projects often cross national, cultural and ethnic boundaries, each project must identify the optimal balance among the interests of its stakeholders. We call this “responsible access.”


EMEL projects bring together various participants, including libraries, museums, universities, scientists and scholars. EMEL has strategic alliances with the UCLA Library, the University of Athens, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the Lazarus Projetct of the University of Rochester. EMEL welcomes new relationships with educational, cultural, and religious organizations.

How we are organized

EMEL offers a unique organizational structure to ensure that the optimal technologies can be implemented at low costs in challenging environments.

If you look for EMEL’s offices, you won’t find them. EMEL staff and project personnel collaborate online and meet at project sites. Without office space and with a small permanent staff, EMEL is a flexible, dynamic organization with low overhead costs.

Since EMEL assembles a unique team of scientists and scholars for each project, we are not bound to a single technology, but identify the optimal technologies for each project.

In all of its projects, EMEL works to enhance the capabilities of the library or museum, which holds the originals, to facilitate scholarly access, and to educate the public about the sources for our common heritage and the efforts made to preserve and record them.

EMEL is a non-profit research and service organization, which welcomes your support.