The Courtauld Institute of Art’s 23rd Annual Medieval Postgraduate Colloquium invites speakers to consider the nature of medieval collections, the context of their creation and fruition, and their legacy — or disappearance — in the present.
Inspired by objects such as a cedar box chest once kept in the Holy of Holies of the Lateran, this colloquium seeks to explore a diverse set of topics surrounding medieval practices of collecting. This wooden box may seem simple, but once opened it reveals a priceless collection: fragments of rock and wood from the Holy Land, each labelled with its precise place of origin by a sixth-century hand. Here and there, stones have fallen out, leaving imprints in the soil. The wooden relic chest is an object of small size and almost no material value, but has nevertheless been treasured for centuries by one of the largest and most powerful institutions of the medieval world.
The study of medieval collecting raises a variety of questions. How and why were objects collected, practically and conceptually? What was their expected time-span and what enabled their survival? How have medieval collections impacted modern scholarship, and how do modern collecting and display practices influence our interpretation of the past?
Applicants to the colloquium are encouraged to explore these issues from a diverse range of methodologies, analysing objects from the 6th to the 16th century and from a wide-ranging geographical span.