Monthly Archives: May 2019

Claire Taylor – Postgraduate Administrator Prize Winner!

Congratulations to our Centre Administration Manager, Claire Taylor, who has won a Graduate School Prize.  Claire was awarded “The Postgraduate Administrator Prize” at the Kent Researchers’ Showcase event yesterday by Professor Paul Allain, Dean of the Graduate School.  This prize  recognises the excellent achievements of an administrative staff member working in support of postgraduate education and research at Kent.

Well done Claire!

Material Witness: Maps, Manuscripts, and Medieval Graffiti

On 16th of May 2019 Canterbury Cathedral hosted the 6th session of this year’s Material Witness, the ‘interdisciplinary training programme for the interrogation of physical objects in the digital age’ organised by CHASE, a Consortium of nine universities in the South-East of England that fosters doctoral research in the Arts and Humanities. A group of PhD students undertook a journey in time, looking and interpreting historical relics under the guidance of University of Kent’s Drs Emily Guerry and David Rundle.

The afternoon started in the Cloister, from where Emily enthusiastically led the group to explore the Cathedral’s precincts with the support of a 12th century map from the Eadwine Psalter. This was a useful tool to navigate the Medieval spaces and a source of inspiration not only to rethink the current visible aspect of the buildings, but also to better imagine the Romanesque past of Christ Church, whose few vestiges survive surrounded by later Gothic architecture.

After having followed the steps, stories and works of figures like Prior Wybert, William of Sens and William the Englishman, in an itinerary across the northern area outside the Cathedral, the congregation retired to the dark of the crypts.There they could rediscover the thin scratches, unnoticeable to distracted eyes, of the medieval graffiti, and the wall paintings of Gabriel Chapel, which for centuries had been forgotten and precluded from sight.

At this point it was time to climb the Dean’s steps up to the Howley Library to be warmly welcomed by Ms Fawn Todd, the Cathedral’s librarian, who introduced the collection, its history, and even displayed some of its treasures. Having the group made acquaintance with the library, David took the lead, encouraging observations about the space, its organisation and features. He expanded on those comments, to build more general discourses, that bridged the Cathedral’s library to other notable examples, and gave insights about all aspects of a book’s life: from their production to their conservation and usage.

A brief pause with tea and biscuits stopped the flowing rhythm of the session, in order to provide the energy to enter the last part of the afternoon. In the seminar room of the Archives, David concluded the day, presenting some manuscripts from the Cathedral’s collections, and demonstrating how much these sources can say when interrogated by a skilful researcher.

Thanks to the personnel of Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library, and to Emily’s and David’s energy, this rich and interdisciplinary session was a splendid opportunity to see how historical sources can be read and used to rethink the past, even to try to virtually recreate it. Indeed, material witnesses, be they made of stone or paper, often tell their stories and prove keen to answer our questions.


Kent-Ghent Research Day

On Thursday, April 25th several dozen graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and academic faculty gathered in a large hall in Ghent to discuss Cross-Channel Exchanges in the Middle Ages. The event, falling under the formal umbrella of the Ghent-Kent Research Alliance, consisted of five panels and a keynote paper by Emily Guerry (Kent), with a response to the keynote by Anna Bermans (Ghent, emeritus). Papers varied widely in topic and form: Milan Pajic (Cambridge/Ghent) delved into beer brewers from the Low Countries in Late Medieval England, Micol Long (Ghent) explored the concept of transitus in theory and practice, Philippa Mesiano (Kent) discussed papal mediation in the Treaty of Paris, and Gerben Verbrugghe (Ghent) waxed archeologically about early Flemish settlements in western Britain. These are but a handful of the many—and excellent—papers given, but demonstrate the veritable cornucopia of topics and methodologies that were on display.

That is not to say that certain threads did not emerge throughout the day. Though the panels were loosely organized by topic, a task made all the more difficult by the breadth of the topics at hand, the overarching idea of “exchange” provided a unifying theme. Whether in the form of church realpolitik in the tenth century or corruption, embezzling, and entropy in the fourteenth, the myriad of insightful and engaging questions levied at each panel from an inspired audience spoke volumes as to the usefulness and future potential of the colloquium. Emily Guerry’s keynote paper served to further enhance and codify the excitement that had been building from session to session, focusing on her newest, most groundbreaking research and ending with a ringing endorsement of institutional cooperation and interdisciplinary methodologies.

It is a commonly accepted fact that conferences do not organize themselves, and all credit is due to Steven Vanderputten (Ghent) and Ed Roberts (Kent) who lead the charge from the outset; plying the Ghent-Kent Research Alliance for funding and expanding the scope of the colloquium to facilitate the presence to include strong showings from both institutions. Ghent University did a wonderful job of making the Kent delegation feel most welcomed, with plenty of tea and coffee being provided throughout the day, and a sampling of fantastic Belgian beer and snacks at the Henri Pirenne Institute afterwards.

One of the most important takeaways from the trip was a reinforced sense of community, both between Kent and Ghent but also among the faculty and graduate students as well. Ghent is a wonderful city, and we were afforded ample time before and after the colloquium to partake in much of what it has to offer. This included walking through the Korenmarkt, stepping inside Sint-Baafskathedraal and poring over the Ghent Altarpiece with our resident art historians, and just generally making the most of the opportunity provided to us. Though the pendulum may swing back to Canterbury for the next event, I believe I speak for everyone involved when I say that we’re all looking forward to a return visit, and are truly lucky to be situated between these two great cities and their wonderful communities.

Noah Smith