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Dark Archives 20/20: A Voyage into the Medieval Unread and Unreadable

September 8 @ 9:00 am - September 10 @ 6:00 pm BST


“A Three-day Voyage into the Medieval Unread and Unreadable: from its Micro- to Macrocosms, & the Promise for Future Medieval Scholarship

This year, medieval primary materials have become physically inaccessible to researchers – and their archives literally dark – to a degree unknown since medieval studies first developed. And yet 2020 also caps a decade of huge growth in online images, scholarship and other data for such sources, albeit still only for a tiny fraction of the whole. This burgeoning digital availability is already fuelling a great new ambition of medieval studies: to scan, transcribe and assemble all of its materials, enabling thereby a range of transformative new disciplines and insights.

Dark Archives 20/20 is therefore delighted to welcome dozens of experts, from around the world, to address a basic challenge underscored by our current physical isolation: If we no longer have access to the original sources, only to (overwhelmingly digital) copies, what of the medieval do we still possess, & what more might we thereby uncover?

On Day 1 – ‘Macrocosms’ – we survey the still-unmapped vastness of the medieval graphosphere – the collectivity of its written materials, extant (read and unread) and destroyed, from Nordic runes to originally Greek texts surviving solely in Syriac translations. How can we quantify the destroyed? What fraction of medieval writing does our current scholarship therefore inhabit, and how did this come to be?

On Day 2, ‘Microcosms’, we turn to exploring the inner worlds of the medieval written artefact. Which of its facets can or indeed can only be represented digitally? Participants will explore the scope of the latest technologies, from CT scanning, to mass machine transcription of written contents, to protein and DNA analysis. On the other hand, what facets can never be represented digitally? Are there dangers in researching medieval manuscripts in the absence of the physical originals?

On Day 3 – ‘Futures’ – we look to the opportunities and challenges that such endeavours pose for medieval studies. Is the future Archive to be an assemblage of the increasingly vast collaborative scanning projects of the world’s repositories, or something more? What is the potential of the new scholarly disciplines that are resulting, or might do so – from ‘distant reading’ to crowd-sourcing? What skill sets will medieval studies require?”

The conference will be held via Zoom. Further details at Register at the eventbrite page.


September 8 @ 9:00 am BST
September 10 @ 6:00 pm BST


Medium Aevum

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