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Ancient and modern. New ways of learning about a medieval town

Published: 15 March 2012
Professor Catherine Clarke

An enthusiast for bringing medieval literature and culture to wider audiences has joined English at the University of Southampton.

Professor Catherine Clarke is helping local people and visitors understand more about Chester in medieval times – through digital mapping tools and new media. “The town has always celebrated its Roman history, and now we’re helping to explore its rich medieval heritage,” she says.

Her ‘Mapping Medieval Chester’ project has produced new digital editions of medieval texts with GIS mapping to show how different cultural and ethnic communities imagined the urban space. “People interested in a particular building, such as the magnificent St John’s Church, which may date back to Saxon times, can discover online what happened there,” she explains. “If they do, they’ll learn about the tradition that King Edgar visited the church and that Welsh people went there on pilgrimage to see the ‘relics of the true cross’.” Catherine’s work in Chester is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

A new AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship enables her to continue her multidisciplinary research in Chester. A new project involves the local authority, the Grosvenor Museum and other city organisations. It will result in digital resources, a major exhibition and a dramatic piece of public art from artist Nayan Kulkarni. Catherine is also working on a historic mapping project at Wimborne Minster in Dorset with local people and the town’s Priest’s House Museum.

Catherine, who joins Southampton from the University of Swansea, has a particular interest in the early medieval period c.900-1200. Much of her research explores intersections between place, power and identity. She will teach Visions of Beowulf to students from autumn 2012.

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