OMS update – Hilary Term 2020

Director’s Report

Oxford Medieval Studies has certainly had a good year; the internal mailing list has 575 subscribers; each issue of the termly Medieval Studies booklet was downloaded in the last four or five terms consistently over 1000 times, interestingly mainly from non-Oxford addresses, the account has currently 2.338 followers with a much wider reach since it feeds into the very active medieval twitter “scene” with accounts such as that of the Bodleian manuscripts on with 23.259 followers. That is another important aspect of OMS: the close integration of the Oxford collections in the group, particularly the medieval manuscripts at the Bodleian (see report below under 8) but equally the College Libraries, the Ashmolean and the Taylorian. A highlight of last year was the Oxford Medieval Mystery Cycle which involved 100 active participants was attended overall by ca. 400 people: This is set to be repeated on 25 April. Oxford Medieval Studies has also played an important role in integrating visiting scholars into Oxford, both those on one of the visiting schemes run by the Weston Library or TORCH and those coming just for a short library visit or to give a talk. OMS provides them with a weekly Medieval Coffee Morning (Friday 10:30-11:30 in the Weston Library) as a point of contact and a one-stop calendar to see all events medieval.

The Hilary Term Medieval Studies lecture was delivered by Peggy McKracken (Michigan) on 23rd January in the English Faculty, on ‘Animate Ivory: Animality, Materiality, and Pygmalion’s Statue’. This hugely stimulating lecture was very well-attended and followed by a lively Q&A and drinks’ reception.

Funding success

We have been promised an annual fund of £3000 from an American donor which will allow the continued running of the Small Grants Scheme for the immediate future. Ros Mitchell has also offered to help with the admin of OMS on behalf of the Ioannou Centre, so she will take on the update of the events calendar and the like. The Humanities Division sponsors the communications post for OMS via the role of the mentor for the MSt, i.e. currently Karl Kinsella.

MSt in Medieval Studies

The migration from History to the Humanities Division has gone smoothly. Hannah Skoda will hand over convening the MSt to Mark Williams from MT 2020.

Update on medieval posts

The Celtic Chair at Jesus has now been announced as David Willis who has already subscribed to the medieval news update. A new Curator of Medieval Manuscripts, Andrew Dunning, has also been appointed. See below for a report from him.

Bodleian Library

Andrew Dunning (R.W. Hunt Curator of Medieval Manuscripts) and Matthew Holford (Tolkien Curator of Medieval Manuscripts) are responsible for the Bodleian’s manuscript collections created before approximately 1550 from across Europe, including Byzantium. Martin Kauffmann, now Head of Early and Rare Manuscripts, remains closely involved with medieval curation.

Bodleian medievalists continue with a combination of our traditional roles; duties acquired within the last generation; and new activities developed since the opening of the Weston Library in 2015.

               - Traditional work

Reader services and cataloguing remain as much of a priority as they have been for centuries. The launch of Medieval Manuscripts in Oxford Libraries has brought together a catalogue of all this material from the Bodleian for the first time, to which colleges are gradually adding their collections. It consists of a combination of entries converted from old catalogues and new entries. As part of the FAMOUS (Finding Archives and Manuscripts across Oxford Unique and Special collections) project, we are now looking to create a finding aid for charters and seals. In the long term, we are looking to position the medieval manuscripts catalogue as a peer-reviewed resource to which anyone can contribute.

              - Generational activities

Photography of collection items and teaching are now well established as part of the library’s core duties. In spite of the importance of digitization, there is no university funding for this activity, all of which must be accomplished via grants and donations. We aim to execute projects that can combine a broad research programme with public outreach, digitization, and conservation work: ‘Manuscripts from German-Speaking Lands’, funded by the Polonsky Foundation, is the focus for 2019–20. We welcome proposals for other collaborative grants.

With the opening of the Weston Library, we are promoting it as a space for teaching and learning. We can facilitate individual tutors who wish to use special collections in their teaching, or we can cooperate on a session run with a curator. We are open to both postgraduates and undergraduates who wish to use our collections as part of their research, although the latter require additional permissions.

             - New initiatives

Combined, the Old Bodleian and Weston Library are the most popular tourist attraction in Oxfordshire: in recent years, the library has had an increasing focus on promoting the university’s wider mission. The library is increasing its capacity for public engagement to promote its own collections, and we now have a dedicated education officer (Rosie Starkey, who can also take on student volunteers who need to learn how to conduct this as part of their training). We also view the library as a vehicle for engagement with the university’s research, and our improving our infrastructure to support REF impact case studies. This work is still developing.

These activities are opening the Bodleian and its special collections to a much broader audience than we have addressed in the past. We recommend contacting us with ideas even before fixed dates or funding are in place, since we can accommodate activities much more easily with advance notice. We also welcome any other suggestions. (Andrew Dunning and Matthew Holford)

Oxford Medieval Society

Oxford Medieval Society is off to a roaring start this year. Keeping it in the family, Colleen Curran took over as President from Emily Corran, and the graduate student board consists of Lucy Brookes, Hannah Lucas, and Henry Tann. Over 60 people attended the annual beginning of terms drinks and quiz. The Michaelmas event featured Dr Rebecca Stephenson (UCD) on ‘Translating Saints and Medicine: Lantfred's Translatio et miracula S. Swithuni and Aelfric's Renditions’. The Hilary event will take place on 5 March at 6.15pm, and will feature Prof. Marion Turner and Dr Phil Knox (Cambridge) in conversation on ‘The European-ness of Middle English Literature’. All interested are welcome to attend. (Colleen Curran)

Other news

A list of medieval postholders which is now up on the OMS page to be extended in future.

One event will be held per term in week 1 (which should become "Medieval Studies Week"): MT Medieval Roadshow. HT will host the Medieval Studies Lecture (and workshop for MSt students), while Trinity Term GLAM Lecture / Collection-based presentation

Both current directors are due to stand down this year, so replacements are needed for MT2020 (Henrike Lähnemann) / HT2021 (Francis Leneghan); we hope to have replacements lined up by TT 2020.

All medievalists were warmly invited to attend events at the Ioannou Institute/ Centre for Byzantine Studies.

OMS Small Grants continue to prove an invaluable source of funding for events organised by graduate students and ECRs in the past year. All sponsored events are featured on the OMS website as blogs: see here and here.


Francis Leneghan

Henrike Lähnemann

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