Interactive access to digital archives

In the last 5 years, many outstanding medieval manuscripts have been made accessible in a digital way, for example at national libraries such as Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) or British Library.  Also the Royal Library of Belgium has digitised many outstanding manuscripts that are of paramount importance to our research for 3D virtual reconstructions (as can be seen in this blog).  One exceptional document is the Veil Rentier, a rent book describing the properties of the lord of Oudenaarde and the rent for each parcel or service (such as transport, water- and windmills). The document resides currently in the Royal Library in Brussels.

Veil Rentier

The Veil Rentier d’Audenarde, a 13th century rent book in the Royal Library of Belgium (photo: Businarias)

This medieval document, written in 1275 and updated and illustrated around 1290, is exceptional for two reasons. First of all, it contains a wealth of drawings depicting daily life, specific sites and objects (for example the market cross that we reconstructed and documented in this blog).


Depictions of a windmill (one of the earlierst) and a watermill next to their yearly rental cost (KBR, Ms. 1175, f. 15r)

Secondly, it is a secular document from the 13th century, one of the very few that have been preserved, giving insight in the secular real estate and customs of that time.  For these two reasons, the full document has been translated in Dutch and published in 2011.


The harbour of Oudenaarde, with the list of taxes on transported goods (KBR, Ms. 1175, ff. 11v and 12r)

As the book has been updated and illustrated around 1290, possibly in the Ename abbey, we have added the book to the Eham 1291 game, putting it on one of the desks of the scriptorium.

Veil Rentier updating

The Veil Rentier rent book in the scriptorium for updating (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

With gestures only, a museum visitor can take the book, open it, browse through it (from folio 5 to 15) and read specific parts of the text (one hears that part of the text in modern Dutch), using the available translation by Businarias.

Veil Rentier reading

Reading about the taxes in the harbour of Oudenaarde in the Veil Rentier (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

In this way, we not only allow the general public to look at this outstanding manuscript and enjoy its unique illustrations, but also understand and appreciate the text, that provides an unprecendented window onto the daily live in Ename and its surroundings in 1290.  This new TimeGate application helps the museum not only to provide a better context for the museum objects and the archaeological site, but also to provide interactive and intellectual access to manuscripts in digital libraries, which are considered to appeal to experts only.


Properties at Ogy (including a watermill) in the Veil Rentier; with text corrections (KBR, Ms. 1175, f. 98v)

As the museum visitor using this Eham 1291 application can also visit virtually a reconstructed windmill and watermill, these constructions depicted in the Veil Rentier get again an appealing and rich context.


The reconstructed 13th century watermill, based upon French INRAP data (image: © Visual Dimension bvba)

Again, these virtual reconstructions allow to bring both archaeological results and images from digital libraries to the wider public, such as the splendid depictions below of a medieval watermill in manuscript from 13th and 14th century.

medieval watermill

Depiction of the interior of a medieval watermill around 1225-1250 (Ms. 764, f. 44r, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford)


Interior of a watermill around 1310-1320 (British Library, Royal Ms. 2 B VII, f. 046r)


This work has been partially funded by the Flemish Ministry of Culture.

Enjoy the Ename abbey gardens in virtual reality

Ename abbey gardens 1665

The Ename abbey gardens around 1665 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

We recently made a virtual reconstruction of the Ename abbey gardens in 1665 and 1730, which is now available onlien and in multiple forms in the context of the free exhibition Old Love at the Ename Heritage Centre.

Ename Heritage Centre

The Ename Heritage Centre and archaeological site (photo: Daniel Pletinckx)

The 3D virtual reconstruction can be superimposed on the real landscape by looking through “peep boxes” containing a transparant 3D print of the reconstruction.

peep boxes and VR

18th century peep boxes combined with 21th century VR on the 2nd floor of the Heritage Centre (photo: Veerle Delange)

Additionally, an interactive walktrough of the abbey gardens in 1665 and 1730 can be experienced with any VR headset and any tablet (and can be viewed also on any desktop).

Ename abbey gardens in 1665

Ename abbey gardens in 1665 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

Here is the 1665 tour on VR headset and tablet or desktop (for the headset version, push START on both sides before you put your smartphone in the cardboard viewer).

abbey gardens 1730

Overview of the French gardens in the Ename abbey in 1730 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)

And here is the 1730 tour in the new French gardens of the abbey on VR headset and tablet or desktop.

garden pavilion 1730

Garden pavilion in the French gardens in 1730 (image: Visual Dimension bvba)