The EU-funded Research Infrastructure on Religious Studies (ReIReS) project has been bringing together various European institutions, including Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), over the last two and a half years to establish an innovative infrastructure for religious research in Europe. The aim is to provide transnational and virtual access to significant tools and sources in the field of European religious research. The network now launched its web-based research database ReIReSearch, which offers a new search tool and improved access to research material and sources on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as on ancient and non-European religions.
Researchers in religious studies face various challenges as they study events that took place across different eras, contexts, and cultures. This requires a multitude of sources, data types, and research methods that are scattered around the world and some of which are not easy to trace. The variety of systems used by libraries and archives to disclose their collections and the frequent lack of online visibility make easy access even harder. Researchers are further limited in their search for new data because different library collections, once discovered, still require access to their own separate digital access points.
Improved access and new technologies
The new integrated research database ReIReSearch is built to help researchers search for data from a single location while also making less visible datasets available to a wider audience. The goal of ReIReSearch is to integrate as much data as possible and make it available via a single platform. The design of this platform is based on the needs of researchers. Further materials that are currently hosted only on local networks or computers will continuously be published in the database.
Technological evolution enables researchers to find, access, and reuse large amounts of data. By bringing together the rich collections of institutions across Europe, researchers can improve the quality and efficiency of their research. The European research landscape will benefit from this improved access to information, bridging the gap between different research traditions and broadening perspectives.
At the official launch of the database, ReIReSearch already contains a variety of contributions from the academic libraries of the Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII in Italy, of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, of KU Leuven in Belgium, and Sofia University's St. Kliment Ohridski. At the moment, ReIReSearch includes, among other things, Hebrew manuscripts from 1700 to 1920 from the Jewish Community of Mainz, a digitized version of the sources of church councils, a selection of rare books and manuscripts from the Maurits Sabbe Library, and books related to the fields of Slavic studies and religion. ReIReSearch also returns search results from the Index Religiosus database provided by Brepols Publishers for users who have access to this subscription database. ReIReS plans to continue importing data from other libraries and research databases as often as possible, thus adding to the usefulness of the service.
Mainz-based subproject in the EU network
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is one of 12 European research institutions cooperating in the ReIReS project since February 2018 and coordinating the Mainz-based subproject including the JGU Faculty of Catholic Theology, the JGU Theological Library including the Jewish Library, the university's Hymnbook Archive as well as the Municipal Academic Library and the Martinus Library in Mainz. The Mainz-based sub-project thus consolidates the major historical treasures deposited in local academic, civic, and religious libraries with a view to increasing their visibility internationally and their accessibility on a transnational scale. One way this objective will be achieved is by awarding scholarships to European visiting scholars.
ReIReS is a starting community of 12 European institutions that are building a unique and highly qualified infrastructure of European religious studies. The ReIReS initiative started in February 2018 and will continue for three years with funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 program.