The MAterial Life of Things: Symposium

Objects Making History: New Approaches to Material Evidence in Medieval Studies

Friday 9 July 2010

14.30 - 18.30, Research Forum South Room

Reliquary from Shrine of St Oda holding cross, in silver and gold
Reliquary from Shrine of St Oda, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, ac. no. 57.519. Photo: © Image Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum

Speaker(s): Martina Bagnoli (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), Nikolas Drosos (The Graduate Center, City University of New York), Kate Gerry (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore), Francesco Lucchini (The Courtauld Institute of Art), Theo Riches (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster), Kathryn Rudy (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Ticket/entry details: All welcome but numbers are limited. Advance booking by 12 noon Tuesday 6 July is essential for catering purposes. Please contact:

Organised by: Dr Francesco Lucchini (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and Dr Kate Gerry (The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

Throughout the Middle Ages, manuscripts, buildings, and many portable objects, serving both secular and liturgical functions, were made to be used, and to be used for a long time. As these works continued to be used, and valued, through the centuries, they were necessarily subjected to wear, changes and adaptations – repaired as they were damaged, updated for new owners and new uses, and sometimes intentionally modified to aggrandise, or obscure, their own histories

Approaching medieval works of art and other documents with this in mind leads us to a more nuanced appreciation of the roles objects can play in shaping our perceptions of the past, and the degree to which our understanding of history is shaped by the physical structures of objects.

As the papers in this symposium will show, production techniques and later physical manipulation could influence the network of practices, actions and beliefs occurring in the vicinity of objects in complex and sometimes unpredictable ways. A thorough awareness of the material histories of objects – the lives they have led since their creation – can offer a better understanding of the role played by medieval objects in producing knowledge and shaping historical narrative.

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