Exploring Medieval Seals
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Dr Elizabeth New ean@aber.ac.uk / Dr Susan Davies sud@aber.ac.uk - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Exploring Medieval Seals : A case study in research and outreach Enhancing Impact, Inspiring Excellence Conference Birmingham, 4 September 2013. Dr Elizabeth New ean@aber.ac.uk / Dr Susan Davies sud@aber.ac.uk Prifysgol Aberystwyth University www.exploringmedievalseals.org.

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Dr Elizabeth New ean@aber.ac.uk / Dr Susan Davies sud@aber.ac.uk

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Exploring Medieval Seals: A case study in research and outreachEnhancing Impact, Inspiring Excellence ConferenceBirmingham, 4 September 2013

Dr Elizabeth New ean@aber.ac.uk /Dr Susan Davies sud@aber.ac.uk

Prifysgol Aberystwyth University


- 2009-12: Research project funded by the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council- To investigate seals and sealing practices across Wales and the Marches, c.1200-1550- To explore seals as a new resource for answering a range of questions about medieval society, economy, administration, law and culture

Exploring Outreach through Medieval Seals


Follow-on project, funded by the AHRC 2013-14, for outreach and engagement across the UK

Who was involved?

  • Professor Phillipp Schofield, Professor of Medieval History, specialist in economic and social history and Principal Investigator for SiMeW and ExOMS

  • Dr Elizabeth New, medievalist, special interests in social and religious history and author of Seals and Sealing Practices, British Records Association Archives & the User 11: Senior Researcher / Project Manager , SiMeW & ExOMS

  • Dr John McEwan, medievalist, specialising in the political & administrative history and prosopography of London, Researcher for both projects, directing digital outputs for ExOMS

  • Dr Susan Johns, (Bangor University) medievalist, special interest in the seals of noble women: Co-Investigator, SiMeW

Also involved:

Knowledge Transfer Advisory Board (SiMeW and ExOMS):

  • Dr Susan Davies (Aberystwyth University): archive specialist

  • Professor Paul Harvey (University of Durham): seals expert

  • Professor Mark Ormrod (University of York): medievalist and experienced director of research initiatives


What have these projects done? Focusing on a wide range of seals and their across society between 12thC and c.1550 (rather than concentrating on formal high status or other specific categories of seals…..)

What did we do?

  • Investigated 26 collections from 9 different repositories

  • Recorded c.3,200 impressions, all still attached to their parent document, from c.2,600 different seal matrices

  • Included all seal impressions within the temporal / geographic parameters: no ‘cherry-picking’ as in many previous studies

  • Data gathered from sealed

    instrument as a whole

How did we do it?-Custom-built database enabled large amounts of information about the sealed instruments to be gathered efficiently (Database programing: Dr John McEwan)- Built upon previous descriptive methods to establish a stable recording template and controlled vocabulary

Shropshire Archives, Lilleshall Deeds 428

  • Note: digital photography is a crucial research tool!

Also note: motif keyword tags are embedded in the photographic metadata to facilitate search and analysis

Who helped us?

  • Good relationships with repositories (archivists, conservators) were essential

  • A close working relationship with Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / National Library of Wales was particularly important for SiMeW, and included a major public exhibition, April-September 2012

Why did we do this work?

  • These projects have created opportunities to investigate many interdisciplinary questions about women and men across society, including:

    • Who used seals in medieval Wales and the English border counties, and in what contexts?

    • What range of images and words were employed on medieval seals in these areas?

    • How can seals inform our understanding of identities in medieval Wales and the Marches?

What is the wider context?

  • These projects have built on past experience, current enthusiasm, and future plans for recording and research in an international context

    • In 2012, a new online international network and forum for seal-studies was launched as: SIGILLVM www.sigillvm.net

A Codicil!

  • Close collaboration and mutual understanding between researchers and archivists is vital for success

  • Advance planning, sharing expertise and mutual recognition of professional values are essential

  • Knowledge transfer to wide audiences

    should be a key element in planning

    and delivery

    • These projects have provided professional

      development for heritage practitioners and

      new information for interested researchers at all levels

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