Opportunity to touch smell and taste a deconstructed medieval manuscript

A unique opportunity to experience a medieval manuscript as a sensory experience will be taking place at the University.

Armand De Filippo, Museum Studies PhD student in the School of Museum studies, is conducting research into an early 18th century Ethiopian manuscript from the Library’s Archives and Special Collections.

The Ethiopian manuscript (MS210) tells the story of St Cyriac and his mother St Julietta being persecuted and martyred in around 304 AD. The manuscript is written in Ge’ez, an old Ethiopian language.

As part of his research, Armand has established an exhibition, which allows participants to touch, smell and even taste a typical manuscript from the medieval period broken down into its component parts – including, blood, ink, pigments, animal hide and frankincense.

From the 16-25 April, participants are invited to explore the exhibition. Wearing camera glasses, they will have the opportunity to interact with manuscript materials, experience an audio-visual installation and let free their curiosity and imagination within the display setting.

This information will contribute to Armand’s research exploring how we interact with medieval manuscripts in display settings and shed light on how people engage sensorially and emotionally with physical objects.

Armand said: “The display attempts to take the participants beyond the glass case and a solely visual encounter with a manuscript and, instead, enable them to ‘apprehend the intangible’, to explore and experience the manuscript as a physical, 3-D object. I am interested in finding out whether physical and sensory encounters with manuscript materials, interwoven with digital theatre, inspires visitors’ curiosity, imagining, arousal and creates a sense of empathy with past times and past lives.”

The manuscript is believed to have arrived in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century in the hands of a soldier as part of a trove seized during Queen Victoria’s reign. A significant number of manuscripts and other treasures were brought back to the UK around that time following British military action in Maqdala in Ethiopia.

With generous funding from the School of Museum Studies and the Library’s Special Collections department the manuscript has been digitised, allowing viewers to zoom in and view physical characteristics previously unavailable to be seen by them- such as hair follicles, insect bites, veining and scoring on the parchment.

Armand is currently seeking participants to take part in the study exploring how we interact with medieval manuscripts in display settings. For more information click here.