When addressing present-day issues, knowledge of medieval culture can add fascinating, surprising or even confronting perspectives. For this reason, researchers of the Utrecht Centre for Medieval Studies are eager to share their knowledge through a variety of public activities, contributions to public debate, and collaboration with heritage institutions, among others. This page highlights recent examples of UCMS’ public engagement.
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Medievalists from Utrecht University regularly appear in the media. In 2017, there was much publicity for the new book by University Professor Frits van Oostrom, Nobel streven, in which he presents a minute and captivating reconstruction of "the improbable but true story" of 14th-century knight Jan van Brederode. Dr Nike Stam received extensive media attention for her PhD thesis on bilingual writing practices of medieval Irish monks. Dr Cécile de Morrée also appeared in several media to talk about her PhD thesis on time in Middle Dutch religious songs. She even did some singing on national radio.
In June 2016, historical linguist Dr Marcelle Cole made an appearance on BBC Radio's Word of Mouth, where she explained about irregular verbs and their history. In 2015, historian Prof. Marco Mostert and manuscript curator Dr Bart Jaski were interviewed in many Dutch newspapers and radio and TV shows when the famous 9th-century Utrecht Psalter was included on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.
For more media appearances and other news, see our website in Dutch.
Dr Janneke Raaijmakers was the initiator and scholarly advisor of the Relics exhibition at Museum Catharijneconvent. From 12 October 2018 to 3 February 2019, extraordinary relics from various periods, cultures and religions were on display. The side programme included public lectures by Prof. Els Rose on the hammer of Saint Martin (7 November) and by Janneke Raaijmakers on medieval relics (29 November).
The book and the accompanying exhibition Perkament in stukken ('Parchment in pieces') show exciting findings from a study of hundreds of reused pieces of medieval parchment and paper from the collections of Utrecht University Library and The Utrecht Archives. Most of the research was conducted by Utrecht medievalists and MA students. The book includes introductory chapters by the editors Dr Bart Jaski, Prof. Marco Mostert and Kaj van Vliet. The exhibition was on display from 21 September 2018 to 6 January 2019 in The Utrecht Archives.
Art historian Dr Victor Schmidt was one of the curators of the exhibition on Johan Maelwael (Nijmegen, ca. 1370 - Dijon 1415) in the Rijksmuseum. Maelwael is the earliest known Northern Netherlandish painter. The exhibition ran from 6 October 2017 to 7 January 2018 in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
In 2016, Master students from Utrecht and Antwerp jointly worked on an online exhibition of one of the oldest and most lavishly illustrated manuscripts in Middle Dutch: Jacob van Maerlant’s Rijmbijbel. This precious late 13th-century manuscript contains no less than 163 painted illustrations adorned with gold leaf.
During the exhibition Magical miniatures in Museum Catharijneconvent (23 February to 3 June 2018), Utrecht medievalists spoke in a series of public lectures. Some 600 museum visitors in total attended the lectures by Prof. em. Paul Wackers, Prof. Bart Besamusca, Prof. Marco Mostert, Dr Yvonne Vermijn, Prof. Frits van Oostrom and Dr Cécile de Morrée.
In October 2017, Dr Frank Brandsma gave two public lectures on the immensely popular series Game of Thrones. He demonstrated how it refers to a multitude of medieval legends and historical events (19 October: Studium Generale; 24 October: TU Delft). Brandsma spoke in Reykjavik on another popular topic: sex in the Middle Ages. An audience of over 100 people attended his guest lecture on 29 August 2017.
Meet a medieval person
In the annual Dutch Science Weekend (Weekend van de Wetenschap, the first weekend in October) UCMS organised 'Meet a medieval person' ('Ontmoet een middeleeuwer') in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Visitors were introduced to medieval men and women from all walks of life. From a learned theologian to a skilled goldsmith: they were brought to life in the presentations of Utrecht-based medievalists.
DRONGO language festival
At the DRONGO language festival in Utrecht on 29 September 2017, Dr Cécile de Morrée taught visitors to sing like a medieval person, while Andrea van Leerdam introduced them to the visual language of 15th-century woodcuts.
The LinkedIn group Medieval Studies, Utrecht University functions as an online meeting place for alumni, students and staff in the field of the Middle Ages, where they can share relevant vacancies, internships, and academic and public activities.
In addition, alumni are cordially invited to attend the UCMS lecture series and the annual UCMS colloquium. In May 2018, some 200 alumni attended a special evening event at Museum Catharijneconvent, where they saw the exhibition Magical Miniatures with experts’ comments on manuscripts on show and a plenary lecture by prof. em. Paul Wackers. In 2016 a special evening ‘From the Treasure Room’ was organised, where some 30 alumni got the opportunity to look up close at a selection of medieval highlights from Utrecht University Library’s special collections.
Primary and secondary education
Lecturers from Utrecht University develop contemporary educational programmes on medieval culture for secondary schools. Students solve a medieval murder case and in doing so, get acquainted with a key work of literature. They explore medieval satire by making a satirical play of their own on a medieval theme. Or they identify parallels between medieval animal stories and a present-day fable by comedian Hans Teeuwen. Among the lecturers involved are Dr Els Rose, Dr Katell Lavéant, Dr Erwin Mantingh and Dr Frank Brandsma.
Scholars in the classroom
On 29 March 2017, 145 professors of Utrecht University participated in Meet the Professor: they took their bikes to visit primary schools in the Utrecht area, where they told about their research and about what's going on at a university. Prof. Marco Mostert and Prof. Bart Besamusca told about medieval history and literature.
Historical linguist Dr Marcelle Cole visited King’s College Taunton (Secondary) School on 2 December 2016 to give a guest lecture on 'The Quirks of English: Why is English Spelling so Irregular?'