Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

A few thoughts on Voyages of Discovery

Before I get too distracted by other things, it's worth a minute or two to contemplate the Voyages of Discovery event, which ran last weekend.

Overall, the event was a solid success, IMO. The classes were diverse, and many of them fascinating. Among my favorites, I wound up in "Where/when medieval Jews fought" kind of by accident (I was the designated techie for it), but it turned out to be a really remarkable piece of scholarship: Lord Gideon has spent years collating a lot of what we know about the context of Jewish life in period, broken down by region and time, and uses that to quite effectively demolish the common assumption that Jews weren't part of armored combat in period. The most fun class was probably Naomi's "From Underwear to Gutenberg: the Rise of Moveable Type Printing": the second half of the class, in particular, is an experimental-archaeology exploration of why ink-making was considered such a dangerous profession in period; the photos of her experiments illustrate why quite vividly. (The word "conflagration" comes to mind.)

This was probably the most "un-event" event I've ever been to, but I think made a fine case that we should do stuff like this. It was resolutely modern in all its trappings: the lack of garb made that point, but it was really driven home by the burritos for lunch. And the thing is, by not *pretending* to be period, it let everyone be meta without worrying about it so much. I mean, at a typical "A&S" event, there's always this nagging sense that talking about period is so very not being *in* period; as a result, our displays often contribute to the "costumed cocktail party" effect. By having a not-in-garb event (technically a demo, to stay within the rules), we can talk frankly without that feeling of wrongness. By allowing ourselves such a very out-of-period space as an outlet for meta-discussion, I'd like to believe that we let ourselves be *in* period a little bit more at events.

Of course, I also came away from it going, "we *really* need to do Carolingian University one of these days", since the two events are lovely counterpoints to each other. But in and of itself, Voyages was an excellent and successful experiment, and probably deserves to be repeated periodically. My congratulations to the organizers...
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