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

8th-10th September 2020


We were delighted to welcome dozens of speakers, panelists and respondents, and hundreds of registered participants, from across the world, to Dark Archives 20/20. 


Part One:  Macrocosms
(Tuesday 8th September)

Just how big is the world of medieval writing (extant, whether read or unread, and destroyed), how is it connected and what is it made of? How and why should we map it? How has our current ‘active archive’ come to include the materials that it does, and not others?

Pre-Released Presentation: Keynote

Keynote Address: Showing the Medieval and Early Modern World as it Actually Was: the expansion of the work of HMML (the Hill Museum & Library) beyond monastic libraries in Europe to global preservation of handwritten heritage

Columba Stewart (Hill Museum and Manuscript Library) @columbastewart


Pre-Released Presentations: Loss and Dispersal

The Lost Patriarchs Project: discovering Greek patristics in the medieval Latin tradition

Scott Bruce (Fordham University) @xuthalofthedusk

Fragments and Reconstructions: the written traces of polyphonic liturgical music in medieval Worcester and beyond

Karen Desmond (Brandeis University) @demontibus

The Elusive Archives of Livonia

Anastasija Ropa, Edgar Rops (LASE Latvia)

Using Manuscript Fragments to Map Lived Religion: the case of the cults of saints in medieval Sweden

Sara Elis-Nilsson (Linnaeus University and Lund University) @ellisnilsson

Estimating the Loss of Medieval Literature with an Unseen Species Model from Ecodiversity

Mike Kestemont (Antwerp University) @Mike_Kestemont and Folgert Karsdorp (KNAW: Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences)

Veiled Manuscripts: European female mystics’ writing in medieval Castile's monastic libraries

Pablo Acosta-García (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf) @PabloAcostaGarc


Pre-Released Presentations: Inaccessibility and Bias

The Dark Archive and the Silent Book: histories of access

Stacie Vos (University of San Diego) @stacvos

Inaccessible and Inconvenient Archives at the Turn of the Century

Genevieve McNutt (Edinburgh University)

Medieval Graffiti

Matthew Champion (Norfolk Graffiti Survey) @mjc_associates

Book Ciphers and the Medieval Unreadable

Anna Dorofeeva (Durham University) @LitteraCarolina

Digitalization and Practicalities of Medieval English Studies in China

Yating Zhang (Shaanxi Normal University)

Plenary and Live Sessions (8th September, 1.15pm-8.00pm BST)


Live Discussion with Keynote (keynote re-streamed from 1.15pm BST)​

Columba Stewart (Hill Museum and Manuscript Library)

Chair: Anthony J. Lappin @anthonyjlappin





Debate: Mapping the Medieval Graphosphere: a new science?

Chair: Elizabeth Solopova (University of Oxford). Participants: Columba Stewart, Teresa Webber (University of Cambridge), Krista Murchison (University of Leiden), ‘Loss and Dispersal’ speakers, and others.





Debate: Inaccessibility and Bias

Chair: Michael G. Sargent (City University of New York). Participants: Columba Stewart, Miri Rubin (QMUL) @mirierubin, Maja Kominko (Aliph Foundation), Cornelis van Lit(Utrecht University), ‘Inaccessibility and Bias’ speakers, and others.





#PolonskyGerman #BloggingMSS Presentations

Organisers: Andrew Dunning @anjdunning, Henrike Lähnemann @HLaehnemann, Matthew Holford @MatthewHolford, Tuija Ainonen @AinonenT (Oxford)





Part Two: Microcosms
(Wednesday 9th September)

How far is it the case that the facets of the medieval written artefact can, cannot or can only be captured digitally?

Pre-Released Keynote and Presentations

Keynote Address: The Opportunities (and Limits) of Lockdown Digital Fragmentology

Lisa Fagin Davis (Medieval Academy of America) @lisafdavis


The Book, The Whole Book, and Nothing But the... Digital Surrogate

Stewart Brookes (University of Oxford) @stewart_brookes

Let there be Light: The holy digitised artefact

Keri Thomas @keri_thomas

Found Within: discovery and complex objects

Benjamin L. Albritton (Stanford University) @bla222

Reading the Invisible: can biocodicology help interpret the history of a manuscript?

Sarah Fiddyment (Cambridge University) @DrSFiddyment

How to Read the Unreadable? Non-Invasive digitization of cultural heritage


Vincent Christlein @v_christlein and Daniel Stromer @daniel_stromer (Friedrich-Alexander University)

Reading the Unread: parchment damage in a fifteenth century Netherlandish prayer book

Sophie Clayton (University of Leeds) @sophieclayton97

Rethinking the abbreviation: questions and challenges of machine reading medieval scripta

Estelle Guéville (Louvre Abu Dhabi) &
David Joseph Wrisley (NYU Abu Dhabi) @DJWrisley

How Much of a Manuscript is a Digitized Manuscript?

Cornelis van Lit (Utrecht University) @LWCvL

Beyond the Veil: manuscript curtains and the reading experience, medieval and modern

Henry Ravenhall (KCL) @HenryRavenhall

Blast from the Past and Back to the Future: manuscripts and digitisation

Luise Morawetz (SAW Leipzig) @LuiseMorawetz, Natascha Domeisen @NDomeisen (Oxford), Carolin Gluchowski (Fribourg), Lena Vosding (Oxford)

Plenary and Live Sessions I (9th September, 1.30pm-5.30pm BST)


Live Discussion with Keynote (keynote re-streamed from 1.15pm BST)

Lisa Fagin Davis (Medieval Academy of America) @lisafdavis





Debate: The Whole Book?

Chair: Lisa Fagin Davis. Participants: ‘Microcosms’ speakers, and others.





Part Three (a): Massive, Open, Online … the Future Archive?
(Wednesday 9th September)

What challenges and opportunities would the answers to Parts One and Two open for the future of the Archive and of scholarship?

Pre-Released Presentations

The Curator in the Machine: balancing accessibility and experience in digitizing the Islamic manuscript collection of the National Library of Israel

Samuel Thrope (National Library of Israel) @SamuelThrope

(Re)collecting the Archive: recovering medieval manuscripts destroyed During WWII

Krista Murchison (University of Leiden) @drkmurch

There and Back Again with 2022: bringing Dublin's lost records back from Westminster

Elizabeth Biggs (University of Durham), Paul Dryburgh (The National Archives), Lynn Killgallon (TCD) @pablodiablo74, @ElizabethCBiggs

Shedding Light on Middle High German Hymn Translations

Franziska Lallinger & Pavlina Kulagina (Humboldt University)

Preserving the Materiality of the Digital: data management and sustainability in the context of a digital edition of L’histoire ancienne jusqu’à César

Natasha Romanova (KCL)

‘Back up soon’: toward an infrastructural understanding of digital archives and digital failure Thomas White (University of Oxford) @___TomWhite___

Medieval Spanish Manuscripts, Modern Digital Repositories: the future of scholarly-curated thematic collections supported via public engagement

Roger L. Martínez-Dávila, with Mary Rupp (University of Colorado) @rogerlmartinez
Manuscript Catalogues: unread and unreadable Michelle Warren (Dartmouth College) @MichelleRWarren


Plenary and Live Sessions II (9th September, 6.00pm-10.15pm BST)


Debate: The Future Archive

Chair: Suzanne Paul (Cambridge University) @suzpaul. Participants: Elaine Treharne (Stanford), Ben Albritton (Stanford), ‘Future Archive’ speakers, and others.  





Compline from the Crypt
Order for Compline (PDF)

St Edmund Hall Chapel Choir and friends


Part Three (b): Massive, Open, Online … the Future of Scholarship?
(Thursday 10th September)

Pre-Released Keynote and Presentations

Keynote Address: Seeing and Being Seen: digital manuscripts and their viewers

Elaine Treharne (Stanford University) @ETreharne


Crowdsourcing in a Time of Data Protection and Covid-19: the case study of Crowdmap-the-Crusades

Emma Goodwin (University of Oxford) @dhAHRC

Medieval Digital Visionary Women: editing the wiki ‘Catalogue of Living Saints’

Rebeca Sanmartin Bastida (Complutense University of Madrid),  Pablo Acosta-García (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf) @PabloAcostaGarc

The Changing Paradigms of the Digital Production and Communication of Medieval Scholarship: some reflections on openness

Ulrike Wuttke (University of Potsdam) @UWuttke

Using Semantic Textual Encoding to Support the Navigation and Analysis of Medieval Texts

Zoe Bartliff (University of Glasgow) @ZBartliff

From the Library of Babel to Arcologies of Information

Michael G. Sargent (City University of New York)


Plenary and Live Sessions (10th September, 3pm-9.15pm BST)


Live Discussion with Keynote (keynote re-streamed from 3.00pm BST)

Elaine Treharne (Stanford University) @ETreharne

Chair: Stephen Pink @darkarchives





Debate: The Future of Scholarship

Chair: Peter Frankopan (University of Oxford) @peterfrankopan Participants: Elaine Treharne, ‘Future of Scholarship’ speakers, Jane Taylor (Durham), Damon Wischik (Cambridge University / Turing Institute), Mike Kestemont (Antwerp), Justin Stover (Oxford), and others.





Discussion: Funders' Perspectives

Chair: Peter Frankopan @peterfrankopan Participants: Marc Polonsky (Polonsky Foundation), Simon Chaplin (Arcadia Fund) @SDJChaplin, Daniel Reid (Whiting Foundation) @DPReid, and others.


#PolonskyGerman #BloggingMSS Prize: Laudationes and Award Ceremony

Organisers: Andrew Dunning, Henrike Lähnemann, Matthew Holford, Tuija Ainonen