incorporating our very own
Koenigsberger Kloisters

          Historians are normally trained to work first (and sometimes next and last) from written documents. You can be a good historian without paying much attention to "things", objects, buildings, artefacts and visuals of all kinds. Yet visual impressions constitute an important and lasting part of our experience as human beings. I see no reason to believe that things were any different in the middle ages. To the contrary, the men and women of the period were, as you must already have noted, much less bounded than we are by writings. When Koenisgberger says (p. 379), "For every one person, in historical times, who read a book there were a hundred who listened to music, who sang and who danced", he could easily and probably should have added some remark about visual communications. Pre-modern Europeans acted and were acted upon, we think,through oral rather than literate modes much more often than we.

          We therefore ignore medieval visuals, at our peril and with real loss. Visible documenta (check it out in your dictionary) are just as likely to teach us novel and intriguing lessons as our texts. And some of you will be even better at "reading" them than you are with writings. I am not, on the whole. I have been known to describe myself as challenged in visual perception. (My wife puts it differently, using some short, sharp words.) But even I may be changing now that the Web makes first-rate reproductions and pictures so easily available at our desks.

         So please, take your time over this assignment. Wander through our galleries, seeing what you see, before you choose your object. And spend some real time looking hard at them, taking in the detail, puzzling out their message. Of course you will find much out about your chosen object from books or at other Web sites. But the real value of the exercize lies in what you can discover for yourselves through the use of your own eyes. Good luck.

This Virtual Gallery developed out of an experimental Virtual Museum project in which Cornell was involved with several other museums and universities. Alas, this has now ended.

           Before you move on to the aptly named Koenigsberger Kloisters whose resources are literally world-wide in scope, you ought to check out resources on campus. You should certainly use the assignment as an excuse to visit the Johnson Art Museum, which can claim to be the most neglected resource on campus, and free at that. Its current policy sensibly imports loan objects for temporary exhibition from other collections, such as at the moment the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. You will find a small gallery of medieval artefacts on the First Floor. Among a number of objects well worth a look are the following:

There are, in addition, among the replicas outside the Art History Department in the basement of Goldwin Smith Hall, a splendid group of Byzantine and Ottonian Ivories, located in the middle, at the meeting points of the two display windows. This is almost as close to class as you can get!


          The objects etc. listed below are an eclectic collection. They represent some of my own favorite images from those available on the Web at this early stage. Though they have come out rather biassed towards the earlier middle ages, they should still give you enough beautiful and/or interesting things to choose from. You must take each image or set of images on its own terms. Some allow you to zoom in by clicking again and see a much magnified image. Others offer a whole series of images for the price of a single one. Just remember, please, that a number do quite literally come from half a world away so that today's still archaic technology may take quite a while to load them onto your browser. Then, relax, enjoy, and maybe study too! Never forget too that you will be able find much information about your objects and images and perhaps check your initial theories in things called books kept in libraries; try Sibley as well as the more obvious Uris and Olin.

    The bigger the image, the longer it will take to download. Some take several, even many, minutes on my machine. But I think my selections are worth waiting for. Anyway, you cannot skim usefully at speed through images!

This sign indicates a link not yet in full working order, one that I want in the Kloisters. Give me time, and I may restore it. Or better still, find it on the Web and send me the location details. 


This is a good place to start looking for the class, but also a place to stay on afterwards. It is the lasting result of a series of talks on BBC Radio 4, one of the very few institutions in the UK for which I would go the barricades if it became necessary to defend it! The objects all come from the British Museum, in London, England. They are carefully selected from a vast collection, first for their beauty and visual interest then also for their story and place in history. They range over a period from 2 million years ago right up to the present. You will see pictures, but can also listen to podcasts describing what you should see and commenting in a very accessible way on points of interest about them  and the cultures from which they came. I have not found the time to 'do' all 100, but will certainly do so in due course, as the medieval sample seem exceptionally well chosen. See what you think.

Some images (and more) from Manuscript Books.Since most of these are rather famous, you should be able to find out more about the one you choose. Searching for Manuscript Images through Large Data Bases: Some fine "things", including buildings: Some places to tour

Some Books of Hours:

There are undoubtedly lots more fine images of medieval artifacts out there on the Web. If you have the time and the inclination (as the Leaning Tower of Pisa once said), go have a look for yourself. A short cut, though still very slow indeed to load, is the admirable and rather comprehensive Medieval Art Slide List from the University of California at Berkeley.

Two other slide lists open to your view are Paul Szarmach's groups of images selected to illustrate the Old English poems, The Battle of Maldon and Dream of the Rood; the latter is especially recommended for its images of the 8th Century Ruthwell Cross and its in-church location.

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