IMC 2016: Medieval Day at the Museum

On Sunday, 3 July, the week-long International Medieval Congress (IMC) kicked off with 'Medieval Day at the Museum', a public event at the Leeds City Museum.

'Medieval Day at the Museum' was open to all, including IMC delegates, and gave visitors a chance to participate in a number of hands-on-activities inspired by medieval material possessions, particularly manuscripts and treasure hoards.

Visitors got to try their hand at thread-binding a quire and making their own book. The book’s cover was inspired by a gold ring from the West Yorkshire Hoard, now on permanent display at the Leeds City Museum. They could then try writing in their books with quill and ink at the Scriptorium (after some practice, of course). Minerals used for medieval pigments were provided by the Leeds Museum Discovery Centre for visitors to examine and handle.

At the heraldry stall, run by Natalie Anderson, people created their own coats of arms. The Anglo-Saxon word game was a playful way of discussing Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman origins of animal words. An assortment of medieval games, dating from Antiquity to the 16th century, was available for people play for a bit of relaxation.

The Royal Armouries made an appearance, promoting their temporary exhibition 'Warrior Treasures: Gold from the Staffordshire Hoard' exhibition. Visitors could make their own clay versions of pieces from the hoard and try on replica Anglo-Saxon armour.

While dressing up like a medieval warrior was a big amongst everyone, all of the activities were fairly equally enjoyed. We had some enthusiastic and positive comments from visitors, who commented on the 'wonderful exhibit and great student staff' and appreciated the 'great family experience' that we were able to offer. One of our most heart-warming comments came from a keen younger participant who wrote 'I like medieval and I want to be an archaeologist. Thank you for making medieval day!'

The activities were followed by a talk by Catherine Karkov, entitled 'Fabulous Creatures: Jewellery in Anglo-Saxon England'. The talk focused on the magical properties of iconographies found in Anglo-Saxon hoards such as the West Yorkshire and Staffordshire Hoards.

The talk was attended by both delegates and interested members of the public who heard about it through the museum and local heritage societies. It was described by visitors as ‘well delivered’, ‘fascinating’ and ‘very interesting’, and the discussion following the talk was very much enjoyed.

Over the course of the event, 206 visitors stopped by the activities during the three hours they ran, and 50 people attended the talk afterward. 18% of the visitors said they might come to a similar event again, and the remaining 82% said that they definitely would come to an event like this again. Overall the event was informative and well-received by those who attended.

Medieval Day at the Museum was organised by the Medieval Studies Impact and Public Engagement Project Managers (D. Esther Kim and Alyx Mattison), with the help of Sam Flavin, Principal Keeper of the Leeds City Museum, and Axel Müller, Director of the International Medieval Congress. University of Leeds Volunteers, Rose Sawyer, Natalie Anderson, Natalie James, Daniel Lyons, Gesner Las Casas Brito Filho, Hope Williard, and Charlotte Brown helped run the stalls, along with Alexandra Woodall and Mike Broadley from the Royal Armouries and Neil Owen, Assistant Curator of Geology at Leeds Museums & Galleries, who provided guidance with the minerals and pigments.