Methodologies for Material Culture II: Literary Culture

Course date(s): 
23 Sep 2013
10.00 - 17.00 Senate House Library, Senate House, Bloomsbury
Course tutor(s): 
Dr Karen Attar, Senate House Library


This workshop is part of the AHRC Collaborative Skills Development Programme Methodologies for material culture, which aims to provide postgraduate students and early career researchers in the Arts and Humanities with training in the skills required in the study of material culture, concentrating particularly on the employment of digital technologies and methodologies across disciplinary boundaries. Introductory training will be delivered through a series of practical workshops to be held at the Institute of Historical Research, Museum of London, The London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent. The workshops will address the practical application of research methodologies and will be organised on the themes of Status, Power and Authority, Literary Culture, Warfare and Domestic Culture. The workshops will incorporate theoretical overviews employing early modern textual and visual sources, as well as practical hands-on sessions – both in terms of access to material objects as well as the use of technology (e.g. laser scanners).

Each free-to-attend workshop is designed around existing collections of objects, special library collections and digital collections at the respective institutions, and will include a two hour ‘masterclass’ to expose participants to the practical application of skills within an environment of unique collections. The workshops will be used to allow students and researchers to inform directly the development of more advanced, tailored training packages to be disseminated online.

Course details

This is the second in a series of AHRC Collaborative Skills Development workshops intended to start a conversation about the analysis of pre-modern material culture across different disciplines and categories of evidence – from pots to pamphlets and jewellery to armour. The first event, hosted by the Museum of London at The London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre, considered the use of archaeological evidence, and the second will focus on early printed books drawn from the University of London's Senate House Library’s special collections. This second workshop will consider ways of analysing the lifecycle of the book, exploring peoples’ relationships to textual artefacts through an understanding of manufacture and evidence of ownership, readership and collection.

Offering expert analysis of and access to Senate House Library's special collections, the day will explore:

  • What makes a book: materials, type, format and their relation to content and circulation.
  • How books differ from each other: different states and the transition from manuscript to print.
  • The copy-specific element: binding and attitudes to texts.
  • Layout and design: how presentation shapes reaction.
  • Reader interaction: different kinds of evidence of reading.
  • Ownership and collecting: provenance and the meaning of books within collections.
  • The role of digitisation: benefits and disadvantages.

The workshop is free to attend but places are limited, so early booking is recommended.

The third workshop in the series will be taking place at the Museum of London on November 8th 2013 and will focus on early modern domestic material culture in a museum context. The final workshop will take place at the University of Kent's Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies on December 17th 2013 and will consider the material culture of warfare and scanning technology. More details to follow.