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Hidden in Plain Sight: Hands-On Exploration of Scientific Technologies in the Study of Medieval Books and Objects


Directed by Flavia Forillo, Noam Lefler, and Eyal Poleg

When: Monday 01 July, 16.30-18.00
Where: Parkinson Building: Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery
This event is free of charge.

New technologies can transform the way we engage with medieval books and objects. They reveal hitherto unknown, and unknowable, information and raise a plethora of new research questions. Combining a practical workshop and hands-on ‘surgeries’, we will explore and showcase some of these new technologies, their potential and limitations.

Hidden in Plain Sight is a major AHRC-funded research project exploring the use of advanced scientific technologies within historical studies. A range of analytical tools, from microscopy and X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy to ancient DNA analysis and micro-CT scanning, are used to support the study of sacred books and objects. We are particularly interested in exploring how these technologies can assist in studying the alteration and transformation of books and textual objects, evident for example in mutilation, folding, or overpainting. The project team will join the IMC to present the project’s scope and initial findings, and to introduce key scientific methods, their potential, and limitations. This session will take place in the Sheppard Room of the Treasures Gallery, using books from their special collections for in-person demonstration.

We will then hold drop-in ‘surgery’ sessions to support and advise about the use of technologies in participants’ own research, between 13.00-14.00 in University House's Beechgrove Room on Tuesday 02 July and Wednesday 03 July. You are welcome to come with any question or idea related to your own work, and the project’s team - consisting of historians, scientists and curators - will discuss how scientific technologies might be able to assist.

Workshop leaders include Flavia Fiorillo, Heritage Scientist (Cambridge University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum), Noam Lefler, Historian (Queen Mary University of London and Cambridge University Library), and Eyal Poleg, Historian (Queen Mary University of London).