Volume 6, Issue 2 (2017)

Welcome to the Autumn 2017 issue of Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture

This issue is composed of a series of essays exploring the ways in which new technology is significantly changing the field of medieval art history. Technological advancements have always stood at the heart of modern art-historical study. Photography made it possible to record intricate architectural details; William Fox Talbot’s photograph of a Gothic revival oriel window from Lacock Abbey (1835) is one of the earliest examples of the medium. Mounted photographs, lantern slides, and eventually the universally used 2 x 2-inch slides that so many older art historians fondly remember replaced drawings, plaster casts, and prints. With the arrival of digital imagery in the 1990s, PowerPoint allowed for the presentation of multiple images alongside text, enhancing the traditional method of side-by-side slide instruction.

Now technology promises much more than just accurate reproduction and enhanced presentation. Advances in three-dimensional modeling, printing, and projection allow students to “walk through” and experience objects, churches, and cityscapes. Mapping software and geoinformatics have introduced layers of data that can be examined and modeled in a myriad of ways. X-rays, infrared reflectography, and fused imaging have uncovered hidden and buried treasures, and DNA is helping to date medieval manuscripts. These new technologies are expanding the research and teaching possibilities. They promise to transform how scholars, students, and the general public interact with, and understand, the original objects and monuments.

Of course, new technology is often heralded as field-changing before it slowly disappears, un-mourned and unremembered. What is different about these recent developments is the focus on student and public engagement. Increasingly more museums and libraries are digitizing and making available the raw data of their holdings. With new digital tools in hand, students are using this data to produce significant and original research. The public too is welcome and encouraged to download museum photographs, produce their own 3D models, and help transcribe archival documents. The underlying push is to make as much culture as possible as accessible as possible. We are truly in an exciting, transformative period of art history.

The articles in this issue offer rich perspectives on the value and implementation of new technologies for students and the public. Approaching these tools for the first time can be daunting. Mickey Abel argues that an instructor needs only a working knowledge, not a command, of every feature. With a firm understanding of course goals and possible outcomes, instructors can let the classroom be a laboratory where students learn and explore the digital tools on their own. In so doing, they develop a greater sense of autonomy and ownership in their work. LauraLee Brott serves as a testimonial to this approach. She learned the basics of ArcMap and GIS in a field school led by Abel, and is now developing her own research that combines cartography with art history. Alexandra Dodson and Kaelin Jewell each offer concrete examples of the ways in which medieval courses can incorporate 3D modeling and printing. For Dodson’s course on the materiality of medieval art, she utilized objects in the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Jewell, in her course on early medieval visual culture, focused on the virtual re-construction of ecclesiastical spaces in the Mediterranean basin. Alice Lynn McMichael offers some strategies for scholars—young and old—who would like to “do” digital historical research, but do not know where to begin. She argues that emphasizing methods over tools allows students and researchers to learn the ways in which their data can be analyzed across a variety of platforms and digital media.

The second group of articles addresses ways in which technology enhances research and public outreach. Anthony Masinton begins this section with a historical overview of the many tools available to us today. While he is optimistic of their utility, he recognizes some challenges — primarily in the proprietary nature of specific programs and thus their limited cross-platform application and long-term preservation. The next three articles offer case studies on implementing 3D technology. Louise Hampson shows how digitally modeling pilgrims’ routes and sightlines at Thomas Becket’s shrine at Canterbury Cathedral and making these models available on mobile apps can enrich the modern visitor’s experience. Robert Hawkins, in his study of the Norwich Cathedral cloister bosses, shows how photogrammetry has made it possible to visualize sculpture’s spatial function as well as its iconographic meaning. Amy Jeffs and Gabriel Byng argue that 3D modeling of pilgrim’s badges at the British Museum create a more authentic presentation of these objects. While the badges’ display in large vitrines at the museum make it impossible to appreciate the intricacies of the iconography, 3D modelling allows for a close and 360-degree view that more accurately simulates a medieval pilgrim’s experience of these personal items.

This issue also includes seven reviews of books by Heidi Gearhart, Elina Gertsman, Karen Pinto, Glyn Davies and Eleanor Townsend, and John Marciani. As an experiment, we asked two scholars from different fields to review the same book: Danielle Joyner, Painting the Hortus deliciarum: Medieval Women, Wisdom, and Time (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016). In our opinion, it worked out beautifully, for each emphasized aspects so distinct from the other. Let us know what you think about this. The Discoveries section features summaries by Clara Pinchbeck on 13 new archival and archaeological findings announced this year.

Our grateful appreciation and thanks for partial funding provided by Kenyon College. Programming and copy-editing: John Pepple; Artistic Advising: Karen Gerhart; and editorial assistance: Jean Blacker.

Sarah Blick, Editor & Brad Hostetler, Associate Editor

Feature Articles

Book Reviews



Clara Pinchbeck