Re//Generate conference

The University of St Andrews School of Art History in collaboration with the St Andrews Institute of Medieval Studies (SAIMS) present Re//Generate: Materiality and the Afterlives of Things in the Middle Ages, 500-1500, an interdisciplinary postgraduate conference on reuse and recycling in the medieval world taking place on 6-7th May 2016 in St Andrews, Scotland.


In recent years, the discipline of Art History has been grappling with the concept of materiality, the very thingness of art. The material of medieval art, be it parchment, precious metal, gem, bone or stone, has emerged as a spearheading topic. Unsurprisingly, this “material turn” has prompted intriguing questions. To what extent does an ivory figure of the Virgin and Child embody the divine, rather than merely represent it? What exactly did pilgrims do with the holy dust or liquid which they carried away from saints’ shrines in little ampullae? It is within this context that we wish to explore how recycling was part of the medieval (re)creative process.


This conference will investigate the different ways in which people used and reused goods, materials, and other elements from existing forms to create (or recreate) new art and architecture. Why did people preserve, conserve, and recycle art and materials from a different era? Did such appropriation go beyond mere economic practicality? Could the very materiality of an object have been the reason for its retention or reinvention? The two-day conference is aimed at postgraduates and early career academics from a range of disciplines including, but not limited to history, art history, museum studies, archaeology, book studies and literature.


In addition to three keynote speakers (Prof Richard Oram, Dr Emily Butterworth, Dr Kathryn M. Rudy), eighteen papers will be presented on the following range of topics and their relationship to the study of materiality, recycling and reuse in Middle Ages and beyond:

  • Second-hand materiality of medieval art and/or everyday objects;
  • The concept of refuse/garbage and its reuse;
  • The medieval and post-medieval afterlives of things;
  • Semiotics and anthropology of medieval recycling and recreation;
  • Issues of authorship, circulation and ownership of recycled art;
  • Genealogy of recycled materials: spoils, heirlooms, relics, ruins and remnants.

See the official programme on the same website.


Header image: Medieval seal matrix of the University of St Andrews, 1414×18 (University Library, Special Collections, UYUY103) with impression made using the matrix, attached to graduation parchment of Thomas James MA, 1626 (University Library, Special Collections, UYUY348). Courtesy of University Library Special Collections.