Successful IMS Engagement at Be Curious 2018

Staff and students of the IMS participated in the campus-wide public engagement festival Be Curious 2018, attracting 268 visitors through seven medieval-themed activities stalls and other displays.

Medieval Memories at Be Curious
Be Curious 2018, a research open day with free, interactive and fun activities, was held on 17 March 2018 from 10:00-16:00. The theme of the day was #We are International, and the IMS in particular chose the theme of Medieval Memories. The IMS asked: What do we remember about the Middle Ages? Which important people and events worldwide should be remembered better? How do we remember the Middle Ages in modern film, TV, architecture and Wikipedia? The IMS further supported the #We are International theme by investigating the international and global history of the Middle Ages. 

The activities stalls, colouring station, and various displays were set up in Parkinson Building Basement B.08.  

Visitor Feedback
A total of 268 people interacted with the IMS event at Be Curious - an increase from the previous year. Visitors ranged in age from under 5 to seniors, and families as well as individuals engaged with the available activities, information, and IMS volunteers. Questionnaires as well as a sticker chart (with stickers affixed in response to four questions, particularly aimed at children) were used to evaluate the visitor response to the event. 

The positive comments from visitors demonstrate the success of the IMS theme 'Medieval Memories' at Be Curious:

  • 'Learnt lots and enjoyed chatting'
  • 'Very imaginative and the children seemed to really enjoy themselves'
  • 'This was the best room in Be Curious'

Medieval activities that were especially popular and well-received include making spice bags, Wikipedia editing, and candle making. 

IMS Involvement at Be Curious 
On the day of the event, multiple IMS staff and students ran stalls, interacted with guests, and helped facilitate feedback: 

Alaric Hall (Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at the University of Leeds):

  • 'Where we Live, on Wikipedia' encouraged visitors to find out what the name of their home town meant in medieval times - and offered visitors the chance to add to the Wikipedia page if information was incorrect or missing. 

Axel M?ller (Director, International Medieval Congress) and Iona McCleery (Associate Professor in Medieval History at the University of Leeds):

  • 'Memories of Food' explored travel in the Middle Ages, allowing visitors to grind medieval spices from the other side of the world, and to share what memories these spices inspired. Medieval-inspired recipes, such as gingerbread and spiced apple juice, were also available to taste. 

Joanna Phillips (University of Leeds Management Support Officer): 

  • 'Mare's Milk and Frozen Feet: A Medieval Journey to Mongolia' challenged the common perception that people didn't travel in the Middle Ages by telling the story of Friar William of Rubruck, who travelled to the heart of the Mongol Empire in 1253, through playing a Friar William-themed board game. 

Thomas Smith (University of Leeds Leverhulme Early Career Fellow): 

  • 'Medieval Church Invaders!' tested visitors' skills at conquering medieval churches through playing a 'trumps' card game, which involved battling kings, queens and popes against each other to see who would emerge triumphant. 

Clare Trenery (Teaching Fellow in Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds):

  • 'Making Miracles: Medieval Devotional Candle Craft' reminded visitors that thousands of wax offerings - both candles and models - were brought to saints' shrines as offerings in the Middle Ages, usually in the hope of a saintly miracle or to remember one. Visitors created their own 'medieval' candle and considered how candles are still used in modern-day religious devotion the world over. 

Emilia Jamroziak (Professor of Medieval Religious History and Director of the Institute for Medieval Studies), Romina Westphal (IMS PG Researcher), Jarrik van der Biest (IMS MA Student), and Lucy Guest (IMS MA Student and IMS Anniversary Intern): 

  • 'Make Your Own Saint' proved popular with younger visitors, as they designed their own saint, chose the saint's attributes (symbols of their identity), and created a 'passport' for them. Saints in the Middle Ages were believed to have great powers as mediators with God in times of need, and embodied all ages, genders, races, and social classes. Saints travelled - literally and metaphorically - very long distances. 

Victoria Yuskaitis (IMS PG Researcher and IMS Website Intern): 

  • 'Finding God in the Wilderness: Living Alone in the Middle Ages' provided an interactive timeline exploring those who withdrew from society and lived an isolated, religious life as hermits or anchorites in the Middle Ages, from the Roman Empire to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. 

Emily Chambers (Department of History MRes Student) and Stacy Anker (IMS MA Student):

  • Volunteered throughout the day at various stalls. 

Various displays, including a slideshow of often-forgotten but nonetheless influential and important medieval Muslim women, and a slideshow highlighting aspects of the medieval in current films, artwork, and adverts, were placed throughout the room, resulting in further discussion and interest. 

Many thanks to the students and staff who also helped with artwork, design, and ideas prior to the event, and to Ella Muir (IMS MA Student and IMS Communications Intern), who updated the Leeds Twitter account (@LeedsIMS) remotely during the event.