Outside and beyond: the manuscript as object and the implications for interpretive settings
thesisposted on 17.07.2020, 13:37 by Armand De Filippo
The success of recent exhibitions testifies to the enormous popularity of manuscripts, both medieval and beyond, and our enduring fascination with them. Yet our relationship with medieval manuscripts is fundamentally a deceit. They have been subject to the general compulsion of museums and other interpretive settings to distance the visitor from the objects on display. Preservation, conservation, security concerns and interpretive conventions coalesce to create a modus operandi that works to put distance, both temporal and spatial, between person and thing. Through their tendency to consider the medieval manuscript almost exclusively a ‘manuscript qua manuscript’, interpretive settings conceal its fundamental material and kinetic qualities. This research asks, what if the display space became a place of sensorial exploration in which people could have embodied encounters with a manuscript released from vitrine, and free from prescription?
How then, can we reconnect the manus with the script?
To try to answer this question, the focus of this thesis is the ‘manuscript qua material’. Using the ecological concept of ‘rewilding’ this study investigates if and how less mediated corporeal encounters and intra-actions with manuscript materials, including digital objects, can engender transformative experiences, rupture the conventional subject/object dichotomy and destabilize traditional notions of temporal synchrony. It asks if potent affective, emotional and imaginative visitor reactions are inspired when encounters with ‘medieval’ manuscripts using multiple senses are enabled, and what, if any, implications there may be for how museums and libraries exhibit manuscripts.
This research takes a qualitative approach using one manuscript as a case study and the creation of a ‘rewilded displayscape’ to locate the fieldwork.