CMT Research Themes 2012-17

the material text in material culture

Recent years have witnessed an increasing interest in the study of material culture, a fascination with the ways in which our lives shape and are in turn shaped by physical objects and environments. This theme focuses on the interrelations between the textual and the material, and explores the processes by which texts are produced, circulated and consumed, as objects alongside other objects, or sometimes on or in objects (since the things we live among are often notable for their loquacity).

Related Initiatives: the 2011 CMT conference, ‘Eating Words’; the 2012 CMT conference, ‘Texts and Textiles’.


digital editing and digital curation

As soon as academics became aware of the internet, they became excited about the possibilities for new kinds of readerly engagement that it might open up, whether through hypertext editions that would encode multiple versions of variant texts, searchable ebooks that would hugely expedite research, or digital facsimiles that would allow unprecedented access to previously restricted materials. Two decades and many experiments later, it is time to assess how far we have travelled. Is it possible to extrapolate rules for a successful digital edition or curatorial project? What challenges do readers and scholars face in dealing with new technologies, and how might they be overcome? What might curators and editors of films, of music manuscripts, of theatrical ephemera, of cuneiform inscriptions learn from one another? And does the future lie with the increasing capitalization of the digital sphere, or with an efflorescence of open-access initiatives?

Related Initiatives: the CRASSH digital humanities network; collaborations with Anglia Ruskin’s Cultures of the Digital Economy.


the library and its publics

This theme focuses on rare book and manuscript libraries—with which Cambridge is unusually blessed—and explores the nature of their relationship with a variety of publics. What purposes will special collections come to serve in the twenty-first century? How might libraries best exhibit their collections and publicize their activities? Do new technologies create fresh possibilities for reaching out both to the academic community and the general public, or do they instead prove a costly distraction from the core business of curating and managing special collections? How might we increase the frequency and scale of academic collaborations with libraries?

Related Initiatives: the National Trust libraries collaboration.

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