Highlights from Virtual IMC 2020

Between 5-9 July 2020, vIMC 2020 welcomed a global audience of medievalists to an unprecedented virtual experiment.  Hosted online via the brand-new University of Leeds events app, delegates particularly enjoyed the ‘enthusiasm of presenters and delegates’ and the ‘international’ atmosphere as well as ‘the ability to take part without leaving home!’ They also commented on the friendly and vibrant atmosphere delegates created amongst themselves by being open to one another, sharing and comparing notes and work, and interacting with and welcoming new people in the virtual sessions.

Virtual IMC featured over 400 speakers, 3,200 delegates (from over 60 countries!), 30+ publisher stands, and more than 20 craft and marketplace stalls. Over five days, the most popular sessions were viewed 3,800 times in the app, with top publishers receiving 1,000+ views.   For 43% of delegates this was their first IMC – this is 7-10% higher than the average proportion of in-person IMC delegates.

Keynote lectures were delivered by Ana Echevarría Arsuaga on ‘Perceived Boundaries: Managing Religious Diversity in Iberian Medieval Towns’ and Hyunhee Park, on ‘Open Space and Flexible Borders – Theorizing Maritime Space through Pre-Modern Sino-Islamic Connections’. We are pleased to say that as both Keynote lectures were pre-recorded, we have been able to make them publicly available for a limited time here.

Although on a smaller scale than the planned in-person event, virtual IMC saw nine parallel sessions with over 400 speakers. These included a wide range of traditional academic sessions, as well as four round table sessions. We were delighted that many sessions or series of sessions were able to transfer to the virtual format intact. Where this was not possible, the IMC team created new sessions, creating new connections between sometimes disparate papers.

vIMC also offered a range of virtual events, workshops and excursions as well as over 30 fringe events proposed and organised by delegates and publishers.

We are delighted that this year’s virtual event has provided an opportunity for delegates around the world to come together and share their research in spite of restrictions on travel and national lockdowns. As we turn to the future, and begin planning for 2021, COVID-19 restrictions will be a key factor in what we are able to offer in 2021. Whilst we hope to be able to offer an in-person Congress in 2021, the uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions, and guidelines for large gatherings in July 2021 means that we are keeping this closely under review and may have to make changes to IMC 2021 to ensure the safety of all involved and in order to adhere to government and University advice and regulations.

At present, the IMC team continues to work remotely and this, together with the continuing impact of COVID-19, may have an impact on our usual schedule including, for example, the production of the programme and opening of registration.

Please note the following key dates for IMC 2021:
• Paper Proposal Deadline: Monday 14 September 2020
• Session Proposal Deadline: Monday 30 September 2020
• Bursary Application Deadline: Thursday 15 October 2020
• IMC 2021: Monday 5 – Thursday 8 July 2021

Further details are available on our website where we will also post updates as they become available.

With best wishes

Axel Müller
Director, International Medieval Congress