Users’ Guide

Platform Layout

IDEA layout

The Primary Search and Viewing page of IDEA is divided into three sections:

The Main Menu – the band that runs across the top of the page and two work Panels: Left Panel and Right Panel in the lower two-thirds of the page.

Main Menu

Guide Main Menu

The Main Menu comprises three rows of functions:

  • The first row:
    • Simple Search function
    • Last ‘Document’/ ‘Busta’ / ‘Person’ or ‘Place’ entry buttons
  • The second row, buttons to access:
    • Advanced Search
    • Entry Menu
    • Community Forums
    • My History
    • Help
    • Logout
  • The third row, buttons access:
    • My Messages
    • Personal Directory
    • My Marked List

Search Functions

More than a simple database, IDEA’S manuscripts interface is a dynamic web application composed of four interlinked modules. ‘Documents’ stores information regarding individual documents entered in the application. ‘Buste’ contains information about the buste that have been entered. ‘People’ stores biographical information regarding individuals and corporate bodies. ‘Places’ contains the hierarchy of place names, from continents and nations down to individual buildings and land features.

Note that IDEA’s content is searchable only to the extent that data has been entered by Researchers. As IDEA matures, the manuscript interface’s search utility will increase.

There are two main ways to search IDEA: ‘Simple Search’ and ‘Advanced Search’.

Simple Search

The Simple Search section, located at the top left of the Main Menu, permits a ‘word search’ in: ‘Document Transcriptions’, ‘Document Synopses’, ‘Buste’, ‘People’, ‘Places’, or ‘All’ of the above via a drop-down menu. If ‘All’ is initially selected, the number of results for each category is given – one of which then needs to be selected. The list of search results is displayed in the Left Panel.

A view of the searched word in highlighted results for ‘Document Transcriptions’ or ‘Synopses’ can be accessed by clicking the ‘Expand Results’ button, located just above the search results. In addition, the parameters of the search can be refined using the ‘Refine this search.’

Guide Basic Search

Certain searches cannot be effectively conducted from this module and should be undertaken through Advanced Search.

Advanced Search

Advanced Search requires that you select one of four modules: ‘Documents’, ‘Buste’, ‘People’, or ‘Places,’ then offers custom search filter options. Filter options and research results will differ according to the category selected. For example, a search made through Document Search will put documents in relation to people, while one made through People Search will put people in relation to documents. Before you launch a search, determine first what you are actually looking for.

GUIDE Advanced Search

Search filter options

DOCUMENTS-Word search-People and Places-Transcription and/or  Synopsis-Topics-Date Range-Busta and/or Carta-Document ID

BUSTE-Busta-Busta Description-Correspondents and Context-Busta ID

PEOPLE- Parts of Names- Role Categories-Title/Occupation-Person Details and Vital Statistics-In Research Notes-Person ID

PLACES-Place Name-Place Type-Linked to People-Place ID

People Search

You can search for a specific individual or group of individuals via ‘Role Categories’ or ‘Title/Occupation’ located in Advanced Search-People, either using the dropdown list of already existing Titles and Occupations or via a word search.

Role Categories

Role Categories are pre-set with lists under the broad categories of Artists and Artisans, Corporate Bodies, Ecclesiastics, Heads of State, Military and Naval Personnel, Nobles, Professions, Scholarly and Literary, State and Court Personnel.

Titles/Occupations Categories

Titles/Occupations Categories were created by IDEA’s researchers according to the specific profession and nationality of the person at issue, and provide a compromise between practical considerations (like searchability) on the one hand, and linguistic and historical accuracy on the other.

GUIDE Titles Occupations Categories

Quick searches for other individuals holding the same Role, Title or Occupation can be executed by clicking on the Title/Occupation when it is in the Left ‘Active’ Panel.

Documents Search

Topics Categories

The Topic Categories were conceived to cover general subject headings relative to Isabella d’Este – e.g.: ‘Food and Wine’; Costume and Dress’ etc. – establishing connections between these and geographical or topographical sites. These are not exhaustive. Additional topics may be searched through the “word search” function in “Advanced Search.”

Guide Topics Categories

A full list of the Topics Categories, along with their definitions and entry parameters, is available at this link [Note: This function is under construction and currently unavailable.]

Last Document/Busta/Person/Place

These four buttons, located on the right half of the top row of the Main Menu bar, open in Left Panel the last Document, Person, Busta or Place entry that you viewed.

Community Forums

The Community Forums allow scholars to raise questions and discuss various topics with members of the IDEA Community:

–         Archivio Gonzaga: Documents, People, Buste or Place

–         Scholarly Discussion Forum

–         Technical Forum

Creating Forum Discussions

Forum discussions can be opened directly from a Document, Person, Busta, or Place record that is being viewed in the Left Panel of the Main Page by clicking the ‘Discussions’ button located at the top of this Panel. The same button allows previous discussions regarding the record to be viewed.

Users can create a Discussion regarding a specific topic or problem by contacting Deanna Shemek.

GUIDE Forum Discussions

User Workspace

My History

Clicking ‘My History’ opens a new window displaying a list of the twenty most recent manuscript  items you have viewed. It can be sorted by ‘Date’, ‘Type’ or ‘Action’. You can review an item in the list by clicking on it and visualizing it in Left Panel.

My Messages

Via this button you can write a message to a member of the IDEA Community. Click on ‘Compose Message’ and enter the IDEA Community Username of the scholar you wish to contact.

Personal Directory

Via the ‘Personal Directory’ you can access and edit:

  • ‘User Preferences’, containing your personal profile, your picture and other information you may want to share with other IDEA users. From there you can also edit your Password.
  • “Personal Annotations” [TBA]
  • The ‘Personal Notes’ function allows you to take notes on any element visualized in Left Screen. You can also access and edit your ‘Personal Notes’ while viewing digitized Documents/Buste from the ‘Page Turner’.

My Marked List

This button allows you to review at any time the list of ‘marked’ or ‘flagged’ entries (Documents, Buste, Persons and Places) created by clicking on the “check” icon on the upper right corner of the Left Panel.

Work Panels

Left Panel vs. Right Panel
(Primary vs. Secondary)

The screen division beneath the Menu into two Panels relates to the entering/editing process, and was established primarily to avoid editing errors. IDEA Researchers and administrators edit existing entries and enter new ones in the Left ‘Active’ Panel, while the Right ‘Inactive’ Panel displays query results allowing the user to view entry information and compare it against the active entries being edited in the Left Panel. Consequently the Right Panel is not enabled for editing, and the clickable functions are necessarily reduced to a minimum.

Guide Work Panels

The two Panels also have different features and functions for non-editing IDEA Community Users. In IDEA’s data hierarchy for Community Users, the Left Panel is primary, the Right Panel is secondary.

Right Panel

Guide Right Panel

The initial results of a search, either Simple or Advanced, will appear in the Right Panel as a list of Documents, People, Places or Buste depending on which search category has been selected. An item selected from this list will open into the Primary Left Panel.

Subsequent links clicked in the Left Panel will either open new documents or offer lists of Documents/People/Titles & Occupations in the Right Panel. Any further links clicked from this secondary list will now open additional tabs in the Right Panel. These secondary/new links – now found in the Right Panel – will open subsequent items also in the Right Panel, regardless of whether they are Document, People, Busta or Place records.

Guide More Right Panel

Clicking the Show Documents related to this Busta record, will open a list in the Right Panel.

Guide Right Panel 3

Clicking any of the documents listed on the right will open records in the Right, not the Left Panel. Full details can be viewed by scrolling down.

This is because the search started from the Busta module, and only the results of the original search are considered primary.

To transfer a record from the Right ‘Inactive’ Panel to the Left ‘Active’ Panel (thus making it primary), use the button at the top of the Right Panel: ‘Show this Person/Document/Place/Busta’.

Left Panel

The elements visualized in the Left ‘Active’ Panel will always be primary. This Panel also gives users access to a series of functions that are not available in the Right Panel.

Functions available from the Left Panel:

Guide Left Panel

  • Open a Discussion on a specific record in the Community Forums by clicking on the ‘Discussion’ button.
  • Export records or share them via Twitter, Facebook and GooglePlus by using the Share/Link button.
  • Print records via the ‘printer’ icon (upper right corner of Left Panel).
  • Add the records to your Marked List by using the ‘check’ icon (upper right corner of Left Panel). You can open your list by clicking on the Marked List button located in the button row of the Main Menu bar.
  • View series of records previously viewed in the Left Panel by using the arrows in the upper left-hand corner, or via the ‘My History’ feature in the Main Menu.

Guide ShareLink


Q. Who can use IDEA?

IDEA’s manuscripts interface is an instrument for study and research that is open to anyone who registers for a log-in identity. General users may consult its materials and participate in its Community Forums. Only Contributing Researchers may edit or add information to the IDEA manuscripts interface. The IDEA team reserves the right to remove any Community Forum exchanges deemed inappropriate to the application’s goals of research and education.

Q. Why do Right Panel lists sometimes open records in Left Panel, and sometimes in the right?

The different ‘behavior’ of the two seemingly identical lists is due to the fact that the queries that have originated them have different starting points.

For example: If you commence the search within the Document module i.e. via Basic Search => Doc. Transcriptions/Synopses or via Advanced Document Search, the list is a ‘Prime’ list, and all records will open into the Left Panel. All other field (Busta, Documents, People, Places) searches leading to a Documents list will produce a ‘Secondary’ List where the document records will be visualized in the Right Panel.

Q. If a letter has not yet been transcribed, can I still view its manuscript image?

Yes. IDEA’s transcriptions and searchability will increase over the life of the site as new metadata is added by Contributing Researchers. It is, however, possible to page through any Busta and read it. Select the Busta you wish to read by clicking on its entry in the Right Panel. A window opens in the Left Panel displaying the front of the Busta. Click on the green arrow at bottom right of the Busta ID window. This will cause a window to open in the Right Panel. This Right-Panel window features arrow keys and enlargement options that will allow paging through its contents, just as one might do with the actual Busta in the archive. If you know the Copialettere number you are seeking, you may type it into the “Insert” window to go directly to that Copialettere. If you know the Folio/Carta number of a loose document, you may type it into the “Folio” to navigate there.

Q. How can I print an entry?

You can print any selected entry in the Left Panel or in your Marked List by clicking the printer icon in the upper right corner of the Left Panel. The manuscript images connected with the record, however, cannot be printed.

The Share/Link function opens a new screen with the record you are viewing, and provides you with the option of sharing it via Twitter, Facebook and GooglePlus, or by copying the http address.

You can create a list of ‘marked’ or ‘flagged’ entries (Documents, Buste, Persons and Places) by clicking on the ‘check’ icon (upper right corner of Left Panel). The list can be reviewed and edited at any time using the ‘Marked List’ button located in the bottom row of the Main Menu bar.

Q. Can I export or share an entry?

The Share/Link function opens a new screen with the record you are viewing, and provides you with the option of sharing it via Twitter, Facebook and GooglePlus, or by copying the http address.

Q. Can I create a list of entries I am interested in?

You can create a list of ‘marked’ or ‘flagged’ entries (Documents, Buste, Persons and Places) by clicking on the ‘check’ icon (upper right corner of Left Panel). The list can be reviewed and edited at any time using the ‘Marked List’ button located in the bottom row of the Main Menu bar.

Q. Can I save/print IDEA’s digitized images?

All digital images from the Archivio di Stato di Mantova are currently copyrighted by the Ministero dei Beni Culturali of the Italian Republic. Permission for images is easily obtained by contacting the Archive.

Q. How can I take notes while working on IDEA?

You can do so via the ‘Personal Notes’ function available in the “Personal Directory” menu or, if you are working on digitized Documents/Buste, in the Page Turner.

Q. How do I access/edit my profile?

Clicking ‘Personal Directory’ and then ‘User Preferences’ opens a window in which you can view and edit your profile.

Q. Can I send a direct message to other IDEA users?

You can do so via the My Messages’ button in the Main Menu’s bottom row.

Q. How do I cite information and quotations extracted from IDEA?

Any quotation from IDEA should include a precise reference to the entry or the Forum contribution which is being quoted. These are the citation formats required/suggested by IDEA:

For an entry (Document, Busta, Person or Place):

In addition to the usual details for an archival reference (which may vary according to the rules set by the publisher) the citation must include the ID number of the entry in the IDEA documents application in the following format:

IDEA Doc/Vol/Person/Place ID# Id number
For example:
IDEA Doc ID# 33
IDEA Vol ID# 136
IDEA Person ID# 203
IDEA Place ID# 28599

For a Forum contribution:

Regardless of the style adopted, citation must include:

  • Full name of the contributor (this can be identified via ‘Community forums’, ‘Members’)
  • Title of the post
  • Date of the posting
  • Name of the Discussion
  • Date in which the post was downloaded
  • URL of the posting (copy it via the ‘Copy Link’ button)

Q. Where do I report any observations regarding the contents of an entry?

You can report any observation via the Forums, opening a Forum Discussion (via the ‘Discussion’ button) on the entry at issue, or sending an email to

Q. How can I become a Contributing Researcher of IDEA?

The entering and editing of documents is restricted to IDEA Contributing Researchers (CRs).

To become a CR, and thus be able to edit or insert new information in the IDEA interactive manuscripts interface, you must receive clearance from the Directors. You may be required to undergo a training/evaluation process to assure the accuracy and consistency of document transcriptions and other information.

To express interest, or for further information, please contact the project PI, Deanna Shemek, at

Q. Property and copyright issues?

All non-proprietary materials in IDEA are covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 license. This means that users may freely cite IDEA materials and may derive new works from it but are obliged to cite IDEA and the relevant author(s) of any cited elements.