THE DARKNESS OF THE MEDIEVAL ARCHIVES, the shadows of the library stacks: too vast for countless lifetimes of scholarship to exhaust? And yet, in our internet era, the accelerating machine-processing of centuries of collected medieval materials and data is yielding ever more detailed, extensive maps of the archive’s extent and  features. The goal of completely surveying the archive, down to every folio and character, is not only increasingly viable but irresistible – and at a time when competence in its languages, diplomatics and palaeography is contracting; for this same process promises new revelations, of unprecedented richness and detail, about the medieval world itself.
      Yet the great irony is that on our new map, the Dark Archives, the medieval unread and unreadable, dwarf all that we currently know, and indeed threaten to paralyse fresh research. In quantity, they encompass the great majority of the millions of known folios and associated records, that remain unread, unscanned and scattered across the world. Who will fund their expensive digitization? What should be prioritized? And to what end, when the mass-transcription and record-creation technologies needed to explore them remain unequal to the task?  Most challenging of all may be owning the shift in perspective that the Dark Archives are forcing upon us: the unsustainably small extent of what we term ‘the medieval’, and the uncertainty over what might succeed it.

Join us this September to crystallize and advance the field at Dark Archives, which is bringing together over 50 of its likely academic and commercial key-holders, from archivists and intellectual historians to machine-learning researchers. General registration now open, and full programme published:

Day 1 (10th September): Mapping the Medieval Graphosphere: What Dimensions, How Composed, Whether Habitable?

Day 2 (11th September): Endless Deserts, Oceans and Mountains: Tackling the Metadata Crisis

Day 3 (12th September): Re-Making Medieval History

along with a range of practical workshops on the latest techniques for Dark Archives discovery on 13th September. 

8:30am to 6:00pm
10th September: Mapping the Medieval Graphosphere: What Dimensions, How Composed, Whether Habitable?

   8:30-9:00am     Coffee and Registration

9:00am to 1:05pm
Manuscripts, Extant and Destroyed


  • Nigel Palmer
  • Teresa Webber
  • Eltjo Buringh
  • Utrecht University

Keynote Address: Estimates of Manuscript Numbers

  • Jo Story
  • University of Leicester

Insular Manuscripts: how many and what next?

  • Joanna Tucker
  • University of Glasgow

Survival and loss: working with documents from medieval Scotland

  • Ralph Cleminson
  • University of Oxford

Non leguntur: shedding light on Slavonic sources

  • Gustavo Fernández Riva
  • FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg
  • Time Machine Organization

Network Analysis of Manuscripts


  • Daniel Sawyer
  • University of Oxford

At Knowledge’s Edge: Lost Materials

  • Krista Murchison
  • Leiden University

(Re)collecting the Archive: Recovering Medieval Manuscripts Destroyed During WWII

  • Henrike Lähnemann
  • University of Oxford

Nuns' Dust

  • Adrien Quéret-Podesta
  • Petőfi Sándor School

"Textual ghosts" in the oldest Central European historiography

  • Grigory Kessel
  • Austrian Academy of Sciences

A survey of the Syriac translations of the lost Greek texts


2:00pm to 4:05pm
Neither Parchment Nor Paper


  • Graham Barrett
  • Dirk Meyer
  • Matthew Champion
  • Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey

A sea of lost words: the medieval graffiti inscriptions of England's parish churches

  • Ellie Pridgeon
  • University of Leicester

The Writing on the Wall: Medieval Painted Inscriptions

  • Maria do Rosário Morujão
  • University of Coimbra

Dark Seals in Portuguese Archives

  • John Hines
  • Cardiff University

Dark Sides of the Runes

  • David King
  • University of East Anglia

The Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi



4:25pm to 6:00pm
Why Exalted, Why Neglected?


  • Anthony Lappin
  • Anastasia Shapovalova
  • Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes, Paris
  • Biblissima

Exploring the Medieval Archives in France

  • Monika Opalinska
  • University of Warsaw

Reconstructing medieval English religious culture: forgotten manuscript sources versus digital media

  • Matthew Holford
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library

The Least Studied Manuscripts in the Bodleian

  • David Rundle
  • University of Essex

The Unbearable Lightness of the Archive


6:30pm to 7:30pm
Drinks Reception
11th September: Endless Deserts, Oceans and Mountains: Tackling the Metadata Crisis
  • Will Noel
  • Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies

Keynote Address: Through a screen darkly: the metadata crisis and the authority of the digital image

9:55am to 1:00pm
Achieving Mass Transcription - Ex Machina? Ex Populo? And How Soon?


  • Reeve Ingle
  • Enrique Vidal
  • Verónica Romero
  • Universidad Politecnica, Valencia

Interactive-Predictive Transcription and Probabilistic Text Indexing for Handwritten Image Collections

  • Achim Rabus
  • University of Freiburg

Training generic models for handwritten text recognition using Transkribus: Opportunities and Pitfalls

  • Vincent Christlein
  • Friedrich-Alexander University

Scribal identification and document classification

  • Ben Kiessling
  • University of Leipzig

The Limits to Digitization

  • Roger Louis Martinez-Davila
  • University of Colorado

Massive Open Online Projects to teach palaeographic skills and to prepare manuscript transcriptions


Thought-Game - Build a Universal Manuscript Transcription Platform - Now !


2:00pm to 5:00pm
How to Organize the Metadata Once We Have It
  • Toby Burrows
  • Oxford E-Research Centre

Aggregating provenance metadata to reveal the histories of medieval manuscripts

  • Andrew Hankinson
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford
  • International Image Interoperability Framework

Discovery through Data: How IIIF shines a light into the dark archive’

  • Debra Cashion
  • St Louis University


  • John McEwan
  • St Louis University

Reflectance Transformation Imaging and Medieval Seals

  • Sarah Fiddyment
  • University of York

Manuscript Palaeoproteomics


Thought-Game: Devise a metadata system to satisfactorily describe and relate all written medieval materials - Now!

4:40pm to 6:00pm
What Role Archives? (pt. 1)


  • Suzanne Paul
  • Carolin Schreiber
  • München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Keynote Address: Bringing the Dark Archives to the Light – Medieval Manuscripts in German Collections in the Digital Age

  • Paul Dryburgh
  • The National Archives, Kew

Peering into an impenetrable gloom and the “tyranny” of digital by design: the future of medieval collections at The National Archives (UK)?


7:30pm to 9:00pm
Conference Dinner at St. Edmund Hall
Compline in the Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East (St. Edmund Hall)


Henrike Laehnemann
Jennifer Rushworth
Matthew Cheung Salisbury
Lachlan Hughes
9:00am to 6:00pm
12th September: Re-Making Medieval History
9:00am to 12:00pm
What Role Archives (Ctd.)?


  • Pip Willcox
  • Luca Polidoro
  • University of Florence

The Secrets of the Barberini

  • Laura Light
  • Les Enluminures

Manuscripts in Private Hands

  • James Louis Smith
  • Trinity College Dublin

Pre-Modern Manuscripts and Early Books in Conflict Zones: An Emerging Network and its Goals

  • Christopher Wright
  • Matteo di Franco
  • University of Cambridge

From isolation to integration: making Greek manuscripts readable

  • Dot Porter
  • Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies

Reading Across A Digitized Collection of Books of Hours



Participants joining the chair & panelists: 

Suzanne Paul
Paul Dryburgh
Elaine Treharne
Robin Darwall-Smith
Carolin Schreiber


1:00pm to 6:00pm
The Future of Medieval Scholarship: Forms, Substance and Means
1:00pm to 3:00pm
The Future of the Edition


  • Daron Burrows
  • Michael G. Sargent
  • City University of New York

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Obfuscation of Manuscript Evidence

  • Kyle Ann Huskin
  • University of Rochester

Shedding Light on Dark Archives: Principles for Editing Recovered Texts

  • Andrew Dunning
  • University of Cambridge

Opening medieval books and fragments to students with documentary editing

  • Elizabeth Solopova
  • University of Oxford

An Invisible Giant: Editing Neglected Canonical Texts


  • Marc Polonsky
  • Polonsky Foundation


3:30pm to 6:00pm
Riches to Come
  • Luciano Floridi
  • University of Oxford

Keynote Address; Semantic Capital

  • Mark Faulkner
  • Trinity College Dublin

'Big Dating' and 'Bottom-up periodisation'

  • Sarah Savant
  • Aga Khan University

Finding Meaning in 1.5 Billion Words of Arabic: The KITAB Project and Its Aims

  • Julia Craig-McFeely
  • University of Oxford

DIAMM: what lies behind and beyond the face of musicology's international digital manuscript image resource.


Concluding Roundtable Debate

9:00am to 5:00pm
13th September: Dark Archives Workshops
  • Enrique Vidal
  • Verónica Romero
  • Universidad Politecnica, Valencia

Hands-on Workshop on Assistive Technologies to Access the Contents of Handwritten Text Manuscripts


  • Roger Louis Martinez-Davila
  • University of Colorado

Crowdsourcing Manuscript Transcriptions: Opportunities and Challenges using MOOCs, Social Media, and Emerging Platforms

  • Alexander Zawacki
  • Helen Davies
  • University of Rochester

Spectrography: Technologies, Techniques, and Teaching

  • John McEwan
  • St Louis University

Imaging Seals on a Budget

General Registration Now Open

If you have any dietary requirements, or any other queries (e.g. regarding accessibility at the venue), please let us know here, or contact us directly at

All registration types include lunch on 10th to 12th September inclusive, along with coffee at breaks. For those registering for the conference dinner, this will take place at St. Edmund Hall on the evening of 11th September, and includes wine. 

*For confirmed speakers and respondents*: there is no need to register for the conference itself, only for the conference dinner if you wish to attend (using the form above). If you have any queries, please email us directly at


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