2020 Summer Seminar: “The Living Archive”
Provisional Dates: June 8-19, 2020
This year’s theme focuses on the concept of the archive: an archive is not a static repository of knowledge but a living entity which creates knowledge as much as it stores it. What is gathered and what is erased or destroyed, how materials are preserved and stored, who takes care of it and what is made accessible, all these aspects define our knowledge of the past, our understanding of the relationship between the past and the present and our perception of the future. Monasteries have traditionally functioned as repositories of knowledge, collecting, copying, distributing, and housing in their libraries vast amounts of devotional, historical, and literary works. Yet, traditions and material evidence passed down orally and in-situ are an equally valuable and necessary archive of communities.
The monastery of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos is a unique living archive of spiritual, intellectual, cultural, artistic, even medicinal knowledge, shaping the lives of the nuns and their (as well as our) understanding of the community’s past, present, and future. The materiality of the monastery itself offers a precious look into the past; the layered frescoes of the church walls are a tangible proof of the monastery’s contested history, a history also told through the icons, inscriptions and graffiti that can be found throughout the monastery, and a history which is lived in the daily rituals and liturgical traditions followed by the nuns. In fact, the nuns regularly contribute to the preservation of existing materials and practices, but they also partake in the creation of new collections, such as botanicals, making as well as safeguarding knowledge. The monastery of Hagios Ioannis Prodromos is thus a living archive combining for centuries gathered materials, unique collections of devotional, historical, and literary works, valuable wall paintings and inscriptions, and present day experiences, tying the past, present, and future, through an ongoing process of preservation and transformation. It is only by way of engaging with it, by creating new connections, by revealing original ways of researching and approaching it, that the archive can continue to live.
Nikolaos Bakirtzis (Professor, The Cyprus Institute)
Dimitri Gondicas (Professor, Hellenic Studies)
Nikianna Dinenis (History)
Maria Alessia Rossi (The Index of Medieval Art)
Nikitas Tampakis (Library)