Merry Christmas 2017!
As this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation draws to a close we’d like to wish all of our followers and supporters a very merry Christmas, and to let you know what we’ve all been up to in recent months.
In the three months since our major international conference members of the team have been keeping busy with a impressive array of reformation activities. With respect to our digital exhibition we decided that two launches were better than one: after the success of Prof. James Simpson’s public lecture and the first official launch at Great St Mary’s, Cambridge, we were very pleased to have the opportunity to launch the exhibition again in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace on the 28th September. All the items from the Lambeth collections that we included in the Digital Exhibition were on display, and each member of the team chose one to discourse upon to an interested audience. You can read more about it here. Many thanks are due to the librarian, Giles Mandlebrote, deputy librarian Hugh Cahill, assistant librarian Sarah Etheridge, library administrator Juliette Boyd, and all the rest of the Lambeth Palace team.
The cue for all the intense Reformation-based activity was of course the 500th anniversary of 31 October, 1517, the date on which Luther purportedly nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Schlosskirche, Wittenberg. This catalytic event may well never have occurred: it is a site of false memory, an enduring piece of collective misremembering, a convenient orientating fiction repeatedly renewed. As Dr Ceri Law pointed out in her guest post for Lambeth Palace Library’s blog, focussing our work of memory on what we tend to articulate as a seminal act, a decisive break with the past, can cause us to forget the continuities that characterize the development of protestant theology. You can read her piece, which focuses on the death of Jan Hus, here.
The nailing of the theses is, however, an undeniably convenient piece of emblematic theatre, and it was presented literally as such on the 28th October as part of Reformation 500, a day of family activities which culminated in a spectacular dramatization of some of the key events of the Reformation at Great St Mary’s Church. The events were conceived and run by History Needs You, and proved immensely popular. The day was packed with opportunities — to experience Tudor music, to eat Tudor food, to create reformation-themed prints, to meet Henry VIII and a variety of other Reformation figures. Cambridge University Library kindly loaned their reproduction hand press, so participants could also learn about the early-modern practicalities of disseminating ideas in print.
We at Remembering the Reformation are not unaware that the public dissemination of ideas now has more modes than print. Our co-investigator, Professor Brian Cummings, has recent first-hand experience, and was particularly active in the broadcast media during the flurry of Reformation publicity at the end of October. On 19 October he featured in ‘England’s Reformation: Three Books that Changed a Nation’, an hour-long BBC Four documentary highlighting the importance of Tyndale’s New Testament, The Book of Common Prayer, and Foxe’s Actes and Monuments (sadly no longer available on iPlayer, but details here). On 28 October he was a panellist on the BBC World Service’s discussion programme The Forum, along with Prof. Ulinka Rublack, Prof. Alec Ryrie, and the Reverend Daniel Jeyaraj. The Reformation: A World Divided is still available to listen to here.
Finally, we were extremely pleased that the project itself has been acknowledged publicly on the websites of both the AHRC and the University of Cambridge. The AHRC posted a feature about us which focused particularly on the Digital Exhibition — ‘Remembering the Reformation – Using digital curation to widen the debate’ — and the University of Cambridge ran a lengthy feature on their research pages. You can read the former here and the latter here.
Our Digital Exhibition is no longer featured on the front page of the Cambridge University Library website, but it is still — and will remain — available here. Thanks to all our supporters and followers — we wish you all a very happy Christmas.