Browse Exhibits (2 total)

Tales of Transfer: Globalization and Dissemination of Ideas in The Middle Ages

This is a gallery curated by the CB 51 section that meets on Fridays at 11 am.

This exhibition destabilizes the myth of a static, insular, and provincial Middle Ages through a diverse selection of objects drawn from different periods and places of origin. Each object on display tells it own story of cultural exchange, from the mass-produced, whose modes of construction encourage their dissemination, to the meticulously handcrafted, whose designs incorporate elements from myriad sources. In an effort to visualize the vast reach of medieval material culture, we will create a map, displaying not only the various provenances of the objects in the exhibition, but also the places these objects traveled and the locations that influenced their making.


The Value of Travel

            Although we might imagine the Middle Ages as a static period when people and ideas did not move around much, this image could not be further from the truth. During the Middle Ages travel was just as important as it is today. The movement of people from place to place allowed for interactions between different cultures, which in turn instigated the movement of objects, ideas, and customs all over the world.

            Trading and intercultural interactions brought new ideas and luxury goods to Europe during the middle ages. Objects like the silk cloth provide physical evidence of this movement. Luxury items in the form of fashion accessories also provide evidence of trade between different regions. In addition to physical things, symbolism and ideas were transferred as well—images of monkeys and other foreign animals represented in European crafts illustrate this phenomenon.

Of course, travelling was important for people too. One of the most common reasons for travel in the Middle Ages was religion. Commoners and Lords alike would go on religious pilgrimages to various sites throughout Europe and the Middle East.  These people frequently brought religious tokens or artifacts back from pilgrimage sites.  Others simply used travel as another way to display their wealth by wearing whatever luxuries they owned. Also, as people began to travel further and further distances they required new technology, such as the astrolabe, to travel more effectively.

            From the physical evidence in this gallery, it is clear that travel and movement were important to the people of the Middle Ages for many different reasons. However, it is important to remember that more than just people and objects traveled; ideas, culture, and whatever value was associated with them also moved around during this period and all played a role in shaping the Middle Ages we study today.


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