Doctor Who-Done-It

June 24, 2016 in Conference, Events, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Reception, Reports

Behind the Scenes
at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies

Who Done It? We Did Good!

(With the Useful Discovery that Our Director Apparently Drives a Tardis)

Our Director continues the Reports for our Activities at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, starting with the 2016 Congress Report.

Now, as a second installment for the Report, for the first time in our history, we tell about some experiences Behind the Scenes.  With Thanks, Naming Names.

Ready & Waiting

Posters for Sessions and Activities of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies, here set out in the corridor on the way to the cafeteria. Photography © Mildred Budny.Reaching the Congress, after the year’s preparations for its activities (described in the posts leading up to it, such as in our Planning and Program), we meet and greet the resident staff.

Next, and only next, we put up our Posters — always taking care, each year, to ask what are the current rules about where it is allowed.  For example, this year:  OK only in some designated places, and emphatically Not OK on most surfaces, as with painted walls or elevators. (Same as last year, in fact, but the rules can change, hence our question each time afresh.)

Some others’ posters disrespect or disregard those rules, we notice with some interest, but those appearances do not concern us.  Meanwhile, we wish to remain on the Good Side.

We depend upon the Congress staff, both at the Medieval Institute and in other parts of the host University for the Congress, to help both ahead of time and on site.  Room assignments, lighting repairs, audio-visual-projection support, catering, the works.  Afterward, too, thank goodness, as described below.

After all, there emerge Situations (shall we say, putting it mildly) which call for logistic resolutions.  This Congress no different from the others, and the Same Difference is that there was mostly Ready and Willing Help for smoothing out the glitches.

Minding the Fort

Elisabeth Carnell and one of her hand-made ceramic Mugs await Congress participants at the Medieval Institute Desk at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies. Photography The Speakers Respond at the 'Magic on the Page' Session at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Poster set in RGME Bembino. Photography © Mildred Budny.

Holding the Fort, and Mugging for the Camera

And so, here is Elisabeth Carnell, holding one of her very own hand-made ceramic mugs. Already from FaceBook and other information, I know about her work as a potter, and the awards which its accomplishments merit. Nice!

Seeing this photograph, after the Congress was completed, she and I wondered about whether it might be called ‘Mug Shot’ or the like, but we thought that the wrong impression would be involved. She wins, no question, with the title ‘Mugging for the Camera’. Love it.

More of her work is displayed here:  ECarnell Potter.  It wins awards, too.  Nice!

Poster Boys & Girls

Poster for the Sponsored Session on 'Paper or Parchment' at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence. Poster laid out in RGME Bembino, with images supplied by David W. Sorenson. Reproduced by permission.As customary, the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence prepared Posters (in several sizes) for its Sessions and other Activities at the Congress.  You have heard about them already (as above).  Afterward we publish them in our Gallery of Posters on Display and in the individual Congress Reports, including this year’s.

Regularly they stand on display in several buildings (as permitted), visible as can be.  Each year, we learn that they speak for us, and make an impact.

One year, various publishers’ representatives expressed their admiration for the consistent and stunningly beautiful professionalism of the layout.  That year, we were showcasing our new font Bembino.  Also, that year, our Posters had to announce rearrangements in the scheduling, which the they could do more visibly and pertinently than the printed Congress Corrigenda, as on the very door to the Sessions.  (Picture included in that year’s Report.)

No offense to the Corrigenda.  Simply, these experiences on site allow us to recognize the value of our new hashtag:  #notgoingpaperlessanytimesoon.  See our FaceBook Page for updates.

Back to Now.  This year, as before, various Congress attendees remarked that they noticed the Posters, even if their schedules were claimed for other parts of the Congress, and so they could take note of our activities all the same.  A good conversation piece.

Worth the effort!  In a way, that’s a method for being, in some measure, in more than one place at once.  (The skill of Reading has much to commend it, Time Travel Included, about which see below.)

Demonstration and Display
as Part of our Session on “Parchment or Paper”

A big bonus for our “Parchment or Paper” Session — along with the expert Papers themselves — was the chance to examine directly several sorts of original materials.  Jesse Meyer from Pergamena: Handmade Parchment & Artisinal Leather (Montgomery, New York) brought many different skins for examination, including authentic uterine vellum and squirrel parchment, the latter especially prepared for our session.

For the record (This is important):  Jesse informed us all that the squirrel had been found already dead on the side of the road, a vehicular casualty.

The chance to see authentically this unusual (as far as we knew) form of parchment caused a wonderful sensation.  Twitters included. Notably: Photography by our Associate Sean Winslow.

Jesse Meyer demonstrates different types of prepared parchment and tools for the 'Paper or Parchment' Session at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Photography © Mildred Budny


Jesse Meyer with Road Skill


Sean Winslow On Site

Medieval & Early Modern Originals

Also available for inspection were original specimens in medieval and early modern manuscript and documentary forms.  Always useful to see the primary sources.

Examining original manuscript materials at the Session on 'Paper or Parchment' at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Photograph © Mildred Budny
Such are the possibilities of combining reports with displays of the sources themselves.  Nice!

Crusading Alligators on a Mission

Logo of the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Florida, reproduced here by permission

Poster for 'Crusading and the Byzantine Legacy" Session 1 of the RGME MEMS Sessions. Poster set in RGME Bembino.Poster for 'The Medieval Balkans as Mirror" Session 2 of the RGME MEMS Sessions. Poster set in RGME Bembino.The 2016 Congress Report shows and tells part of the story of our paired Sessions co-sponsored with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Florida, in a collaboration between our organizations now its third successful consecutive year.  You can see the previous years of this collaboration in our 2015 Congress Report and 2014 Congress Report. Other reports for this year’s Sessions include the Abstracts of Papers published in the illustrated 2016 Congress Program Booklet.  And there were the Posters.

It did not go unnoticed that the design of the twinned Posters — here, and in the Poster Pictured image above, you see them in their intended orientations, facing each other — was intentional.  We delight in the Center’s different logos, official and comparably but differently official, with the visored alligator mascot Albertus Paludis (“Albert of the Swamp”), replete with impressive grill.  Some of us cheerfully wondered if the rose-festooned mode of armored mascot might have been fashioned by Rosie the Riveter.  However it was worked, it works.

We are glad to participate in the sessions of this co-sponsorship, which both gather and affirm international collaboration across disciplines and beyond borders.

Books in Motion

We admire the long-distance journeys of our participants, bringing their accumulated expertise from afar, across time and place.  It is notable, and greatly appreciated, that some speakers generously brought books as gifts, and also returned with weighty books as gifts.  A special treat!  Some of the exchange — medievalists, take note, Gift Exchange is alive and well, hurray! — is recorded in our official 2016 Congress Report.

Group Portrait for the 2 Co-Sponsored Sessions of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Florida. Photograph by Andrzej Kompa, reproduced by permission.

The Tardis on Wheels

Collin Brown, who gave a paper at one of our co-sponsored Congress Sessions last year (its Abstract here), gave the perfect comment for some of our collective travels at this year’s Congress.  Here he is at one of those Sessions in 2015 (their descriptions here):

P5160185 Discussion after AZO Magic Session 2015

At the 2015 Congress

Our assigned schedule at the Congress this year was punishing.  A busy, packed, schedule, and we prepared for that, but the assignments of all our scheduled events on the 2 first days, and their locations, proved onerous.  Not only because unexpected elements arising compounded the duties.  The scheduling was too taut for comfort in any case.  Logistics suffered.

You see, we were assigned Session-Slots 1 and 2 on Day 1 (the Thursday of the Congress), with Sessions first thing in the morning and first thing in the afternoon, sandwiching our lunchtime Open Business Meeting (its Agenda here), with a required transfer from one building to another, leaving insufficient time — no matter how you cut it — to make the transfer.  Session 2 therefore had to start late.  We wished better.  The Congress scheduling simply did not permit.

Also, you see, we were assigned Session-Slots 1 and 3 on Day 2 (the Friday), leading directly to our co-sponsored Reception — in a different building, leaving insufficient time to make the transfer.  Ditto.  Hard going.

Reality check.  Tardis included.  (You thought we forgot?  That?!  Never!)

Getting It Reality

Poster for the co-sponsored Session on 'Magic on the Page', laid out in RGME Bembino.On Day 2 this year, as we had to move from one building, after completing the co-sponsored Session on ‘Magic On the Page’ (described in the 2016 Congress Report), and heading for the co-sponsored Reception (described there too) in another building down the hill (pesty on-going construction obstacles includedd), our Director had, as usual, to collect the materials for the given Session and repack them for the travel, along with the requisite materials already assembled for the Reception and for the earlier appointments.  That time, it meant 2 luggage trolleys, best transported by 2 people.

She calls the task “Walking the Dogs”.  (We love dogs, most of them, anyway, and dogs both need and like exercise.)

Sometimes, on these travels of hers (=Ours), there are as many as 3 dogs (not small dogs, neither), but this method of 2 trolleys only was (ha, ha) Travelling Light.

Collin gallantly offered to help.  As we emerged into the outdoors (and the beginning of rain), Collin observed that “You have many things”.  True.

(One of our new hashtags, remember, is #notgoingpaperlessanytimesoon.  You can see it in action on our FaceBook Page.  And in our Posters, our Booklets and other Publications, our Illustrated Catalogue, etc.)

To Collin’s sage observation, our Director remarked, “It may surprise you, but these aren’t the same things” — because they change in the trolleys from one time to the other.  Remember, this was Day 2 already, so there had been time for the transfers, multiply.

The portage conditions had already been widely noticed.  Our Director is, among other things, a Beast of Burdens.  (No offense to Beasts, at least, not all of them.  Burdens, at least the unwanted ones, say, outside the gym, might be another matter.)

Front Covers for Volumes I & II of 'Insular, Anglo-Saxon, and Anglo-Norman Manuscript Art at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge: An Illustrated Catalogue' by Mildred Budny, with the title of the publication and the gold-stamped logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, co-publisher of the volumesOur Director pointed out that some of the things in Dog-Walker 2 (Collin’s trolley at the time) were boxed copies of the 2-volume Illustrated Catalogue, for which the new Promotional Offer had some welcome responses aforehand calling for delivery at the Congress — a method that could save on shipping costs.  (The boxed set weighs 13.5 lbs, no less.)  That delivery system was a main, but not the sole, reason why she had opted for driving all the way to the Congress and back again, a non-trivial feat.

It is, after all, weighty scholarship no matter how you look at it, or weigh it.  To put it another way, in such cases, Size Matters.

“That copy of the Illustrated Catalogue” — she pointed to one of them in the trolley — was destined for collection by graduate students for overland delivery to their professor, who had spoken for it ahead of time and could not attend the Congress.  “That copy” — she pointed to another one — is for delivery to another colleague, who knew that, given our several busy schedules at the Congress, it would be possible, at least, to find her at her co-sponsored Reception.

So, although they might look the same (2 copies of the Catalogue transported by our form of Dog Sled, shown below, had found their destinations on Day 1), these aren’t the same things that we are transporting now.  Still there are some same-looking things, it is true, but not the same ones exactly.  Gertude Stein in Everybody’s Autobiography had certain indeterminate things to say on such a subject (fish or magazines, in fact), but we perhaps partly digress.

Back to now, as we descended the hill in slight rain, happily on course.  About those same-but-different things in the Dog Sleds:

“Ah”, said Collin.  “Where do they [meaning the new ones] come from?”
“Ah”, said our Director, “They come from the back of my car.  There are the refills.”

“Oh!  So your car is the Tardis”.

Yay!  You heard of the Tardis? Yes, we have, too.

“Bigger On The Inside” is a sovereign way to approach Travel of any kind, Time Travel included.

And if you ask us, any Time to consider Medieval or Manuscript [and Other] Studies is a Good Time — and a Good Time for Time Travel.

Been There, Doctor Who-Done-That

Tardis2 via Wikipedia Commons

Tardis 2 via Wikipedia Commons

It may be worth mentioning that this illuminating comment has already impressed some of our colleagues.  Collin’s inspired comment deserved happy report to participants at the Reception, Sessions, Meetings, and wherever our Director’s path at the Congress might direct.  Only once during those several days was it found useful to define the term Tardis.  (That is simply a market-research comment, not a complaint.)

Funny, and fun, that this revelation of the desirability and capabilities of our Director’s chariot made some Congress participants look at her with increased respect.  They included some of the ones who, in the earlier hours of the Congress, looked on her with disdain as an ignoble Beast of Burdens, having to drag things around without an entourage or a big expanse account.  (That ‘expanse’ thing is not a typo.)  Apparently (well, Duh!), having access to a Tardis for real inspires envy.

Some of those volunteer disdainers find it offensive (Why?) that our Director has so dedicated a zeal, as a volunteer without pay and without awards nor honors, for the purposes of promoting education.  That some of the Disdainers make their chosen subjects of study some dedicated proponents, advocates, missionaries in the Middle Ages allows us to wonder how comfortable — or rather otherwise — it may be for some colleagues to see within their own timezone and timespan a living incarnation of (mostly) selfless dedication to a cause (and not a political or military cause).  Not that these causes are the same thing.  Just that it might be appreciated that this chosen path is not a comfortable nor well-paid one.

Maybe that is the reason for the main disdain.  Incomprehension, that could be it.  Without allowance for difference.

However, we digress a bit.  Back on course:

That our Director’s chariot — it’s a time-honored vehicle purchased already used and still going strong — is revealed to have marvellous powers is one of the best accomplishments of the Congress.  Kinda Cool.

The term chariot for it, by the way, was bestowed by our late (and lamented) Associate Michel Huglo.  It happened as our Director came to greet him upon departure after his participation at our 1998 Symposium on The Bible and The Liturgy at Princeton University (among other occasions, all treasured in memory). As we said our goodbyes, in the driveway of The Peacock Inn, where he had stayed, he exclaimed, with appreciation: “Le chariot de Milly!”

She still has the same car, still trustworthy. Well travelled, too.

And now we know, with the journey to the 2016 Congress, that it has acquired (so we might hope) the talents, or anyway the name, of the Tardis. Some Chariot!

Mobility with Style

By the way, Our Director’s first car was an MGA. Not new, of course. But/And Sweet. It was a convertible, stick shift (of course), and a beautiful robin’s egg blue with black interior.  As one of the Factory Colors, they called it Glacier Blue. Stylish, don’t you think?

Hold that Thought. We’ll return to Sports Cars soon (see below).

Chariots, Tardis-es (in whatever form the plural might take, that is, if such a vehicle can occur in plural . . . ), included.

But first, we survey the scenery.

Best Tie and Bow-Tie Competition

Sometimes at Conferences, we have a chance to assemble an ad-hoc Committee to determine the awards for the Best Tie and the Best Bow-Tie of the Conference.  Long story, perhaps worthy of an essay, to tell some highlights over the years.  Could be fun.  This time, we were busy with other tasks.

Bref, in the midst of other tasks, in passing, our Director noticed a winning Bow-Tie.  The criteria overall will come in that essay about the competition over the years, and about the ad-hoc Committees assembled to judge their entries.

For now, sufficient to say that the winner this year, totally, is our Associate Edgar Francis IV. We didn’t have the chance to make a photograph. Perhaps next time?

Secret Tip: A good smile helps the cause. A winning smile!


Our Co-Sponsored Reception (see the 2016 Congress Report) was well attended.  For example, all the staff attending the Congress from our co-sponsor the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University greeted guests at the Reception.

DSCN0845 Selfing at the 2016 Reception at 200 dpi

Many of the participants of Sessions sponsored and co-sponsored by the Research Group, both from this year and earlier years, joined the Reception.  It was a happy occasion.

DSCN0839 Societas Representatives at the2016 Reception

Meets & Greets

Many other happy meetings and greetings to report.  Here is a start.

For example, at one of the general receptions (Day 3), we could join the on-going linguistic discussion between Ilya V. Sverdlov and our Associate Geoffrey Russom.  You might remember that Ilya generously allowed us to show his photos of heads on the Pont Neuf in Paris on the series of Posters for our Sessions at the 2015 Congress. Rick has contributed to our activities in many ways over the years, for example with a paper at our 2002 British Museum Colloquium.

429 Ilya Sverdlov and Rick Russom at Wine Hour at AZO 2016 cropped

“Words Matter”

Test Drive

A bonus.  (As if such a discussion weren’t enough!)

As we were leaving that reception (Dog Sled 1 in tow, now lightened of its carriage of Weighty Scholarship), our conversation turned by chance to sports cars.  Didn’t know that we shared that interest, as well. (And now you also know, as revealed above.)

Bref, with the wind sweeping on its way to bits of snow (May and warmer Days 1 & 2 before notwithstanding), Rick showed his classy car.  And showed it off.  There, in the nearly empty car park (all the Congressisti had departed to their other engagements, while we kept talking), he offered a test drive.

Sweet!  Not for nothing, we learn, did he grow up in Detroit.  Nature & Nuture, great when it works.  Hadn’t expected such an opportunity at the Congress.  Memorable, indeed.  Worth the trip!

Geoffrey Russom stands beside his car in the parking lot behind Fetzer at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies. Photography The Speakers Respond at the 'Magic on the Page' Session at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Poster set in RGME Bembino. Photography © Mildred Budny.

Never a Dull Moment

Feeling Board?  That’s not a Typo.

Board games in play at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies. A Good Meeting Point. Photography © Mildred Budny.

So glad to have a meeting point at the end of the day.  Relaxing with Focus was the Main Name of the Game.

Meeting Points

Some more souvenirs.  Any time is a Good Time to talk about Manuscripts Etc.

Here with our Associate Eric J. Johnston.

Eric Johnston makes a happy appearance at the Dance at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies
Here with Alison Alstatt, in a joyful meeting in person, following upon written conversations about her ground-breaking work of recognizing the lost remnants of Wilton Processional — a subject which some of our earlier research allowed us to begin to glimpse (as reported on our  blog, with updates). Wonderful to see the sure touch of devoted study for a manuscript having gained some Re-Foundlings.

Celebrating the chance to meet, after corresponding, at the Reception co-sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the Index of Christian Art at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo in May, 2016.

Lost & Found:  Dr. Who-Done-It in Action

And now a Shout Out to Round Out the Report.  Remember that we started by greeting and acknowledging the staff Behind the Scenes?  Already we regularly recognize their help, over the years.  This year comes an occasion to describe an extra extension.

Remember that this Congress taught us that our Director and many of our Fellow Time-Travellers have some admiration for the Tardis?  (No Offense to the Tardis and Doctor Who!)  This time, we had a bit of a mystery to solve.  Not exactly Who, but Where Was It?

During the Congress, sometime after the completion of our Session on “Paper or Parchment” (Day 2), the Ac-Adapter belonging to a Dell laptop used for its presentation (and for earlier presentations in Sessions sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence) wandered out of sight.  At least the mishap had the forethought to plan the wandering at a time following all the Appearances of the RGME Requiring a Laptop in Attendance for Presentations.  Last sighting was in the room of that Session, while its continuing discussions occupied attention.  Priorities being what they are.

By the Sunday, last day of the Congress (Day 4), our Director had the Opportunity (for which read Last-Minute-Possibility, No Chance Sooner) to retrace steps, search rooms, and discover that the missing adapter was nowhere to be seen.

Afterward, a call to the Lost & Found of Western Michigan University and the resourceful efforts the staff of the Medieval Institute managed to identify the lost case and to arrange for its retrieval. For their help, we thank Melissa Bibler of the Lost & Found, and Liz Teviotdale and Lisa Carnell (see above) of the Medieval Institute.

That we have a special place in our hearts for Lost & Foundlings among manuscript fragments is already visible in our blog on Manuscript Studies. (A leaf from the Wilton Processional included.)

That we appreciate the chance to recover Lost Foundlings of other kinds is now clear here.

A Bit of a Bonus for Manuscript Lovers

You know, the key to the tracking came from a bit of manuscript? Now you do.  Typical, we might think.  Fortuitous, also.  Fortunate, as well.

How to tell any old or new piece of technical equipment, purchased off the manufacturer’s shelf, from any other one? How to find out what the correct replacement would be and where to obtain it?

That set of questions turned out to be much more difficult than should be expected (long story), due to the failure of the sleek design of the laptop in question to allow for anything so useful as a model number or a serial number to be displayed anywhere other than within its system. Accessing that system would have, perforce, to depend upon enough juice remaining in the charged battery to allow for firing up the system, etc. That unwarranted set of challenges for a busy user on the move is deserving of a blogpost, but not right now.

Meanwhile, we could reflect with a smile that another hashtag worth adopting is #HandwritingNotGoingOutOfStyle.  Even, in part (given the mixture of styles in these samples), #CursiveHandwritingStillHasAPlace.

Dell laptop AC Adapter with handwritten labels attached. Photography © Mildred Budny

The Wanderer, Labels Included


And now, with our Activities at the 2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies accomplished, with its formal Report and a Report Behind the Scenes (You Are Here), we begin to plan our activities for the next Congress. Watch this space, our Congress blog, and News.

Also, while you are waiting, our blog on continues to grow, now with a Contents List.