Musings on Culture

Alejandra de Leiva's Blog

Category : Resources

The Making of Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts

Matthew writing

Saint Matthew writing, manuscript at the Bilbiothèque Nationale de France

In our eBook era, it’s worth revisiting the craftsmanship of book-making, to understand and appreciate the effort it involved.

In ancient times, texts were written on papyrus, produced from the pith of the papyrus plant. From the fifth century, parchment made from animal skin became the main writing material.

This video from the J.Paul Getty Museum (6:20) provides an interesting overview of the process of making illuminated manuscripts, from parchment preparation to binding.  In illuminated manuscripts, text is supplemented by the addition of miniature illustrations and decorated initials, made with gold and silver leaf and pigments made from plants and minerals, and could take months or years to produce. Traditionally, these manuscripts were produced in monasteries. The majority of surviving manuscripts are from the Middle Ages.

Book illumination reamained a flourishing art until the sixteenth century.

In this other video (1:10:10), Dr. Sally Dormer explains in thorough detail the making of medieval manuscripts, in a lecture given at the Museum of London in 2012. Dr. Dormer is a specialist medieval art historian.

Furthermore, on the website Medieval Manuscripts on the Web you can find a list of manuscript digitization projects, ordered by country. Other resourceful websites are the Digital Scriptorium, a growing image database of medieval and renaissance manuscripts, and Europeana Regia, a corpus of digitised manuscripts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, with a focus on the beginning of European culture in the Carolingian time: documents from the Bibliotheca Carolina (8th and 9th centuries), the Library of Charles V (14th century) and the Library of the Aragonese Kings of Naples (15th and 16th centuries).

If you want to know more about illuminated manuscripts, I recommend you the following two beautiful books:

A History of Illuminated Manuscripts and The Bible of Illuminated Letters: A Treasury of Decorative Calligraphy (Quarto Book).

For a more general history of writing systems, I recommend you the excellent book The Story of Writing.


Mapping the current practices in film literacy in Europe

From end of April to mid July 2012 I had the chance to do a work placement at the British Film Institute, as part of my MA in International Cultural Policy and Management from the University of Warwick. One of my tasks, together with a MA student from Birbeck University, was to assist with research for a report mapping the current practices in film literacy in Europe. The report is part of a series of research studies funded by the Media Literacy initiative of the European Commission. The core research team consisted of a consortium of the BFI, the Institute of Education (University of London) and the industry body Film Education. The aim of the research is to analyse the provision of film education in Europe in formal and informal education settings, covering all age groups, and provide recommendations on how to strengthen film education and better integrate film literacy in the MEDIA strand of the Creative Europe programme 2014-2020.

The final report will be published in 2013 on the European Commission’s website. Mark Reid (Head of Education, BFI) and Andrew Burn (Professor of Media Education, Institute of Education, University of London) have written an essay that provides a summary of key findings. The article is published in the Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy with the title “Screening Literacy: Reflecting on Models of Film Education in Europe” and can be read following this link.

The Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy is open access and can be downloaded here.

UPDATE (May 2013): Executive Summary of research + EU Recommendations published here.

Screening Literacy BFI MEDIA European Commission

UPDATE (June 2013): Full report available on BFI’s website.


Resources about museum education and technology

In this post, I would like to share with you some resources about museum education and technology that I have found to be both helpful and inspiring.

  • The NMC Horizon Report 2012: Museum Edition, published on January 14, 2013 by the New Media Consortium (NMC), examines six technologies that are most likely to have a significant impact in museum education and interpretation over the next five years: mobile apps, social media, augmented reality, open content, smart objects and natural user interfaces. The report describes in detail each of these technologies and highlights several programs developed by different cultural institutions to facilitate learning and reach out to a wider audience. The report is available for download following this link.
  • The videos from the International Conference Museums in Education held at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid in November 2012. I’ve only watched a few yet, but there is some fantastic content. I’ve found specially interesting Masha Turchinsky’s conference on New educational formats in the Museum. Digital media, digital collaborative projects and edutainment in the Museum. Masha Turchinsky is Senior Manager for Digital Learning & Senior Media Producer, Digital Media at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In the video she talks about three of the Met’s recent digital media projects, and reflects “on these digital media formats as progressive steps in Museum’s active role of harnessing technology in order to pose questions about future notions of what a museum can and should be to remain relevant to its worldwide audience of learners”. Turchinsky’s conference can be watched here (in Spanish).
  • Amit Sood’s TED Talk Building a museum of museums. Sood is the head of Google’s Art Project, an online platform through which the public can access high-resolution images of artworks found in different museums worldwide, making art accessible with just a click of the mouse. Sood discusses in this talk some of the Art Project’s features. Astonishing.
  • Thomas P. Campbell’s TED Talk Weaving narratives in museum galleries. In this video, Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, speaks about his approach to curating, an approach that tries to break down the stereotype of museums as elitist. Campbell states that the role of the curator is to create narratives to give people a way to connect with artworks through their stories.

Taller literario: el cuento

He impartido recientemente un taller literario en una escuela concertada de secundaria en Barcelona. He quedado muy satisfecha con la experiencia, sobre todo porque ha sido mi primera experiencia docente y los alumnos han respondido muy bien, mostrando mucho interés por la materia. Espero impaciente leer los cuentos escritos que me tienen que entregar mis alumnos después de Navidad, para comprobar hasta qué punto han interiorizado los conceptos trabajados.

Cuelgo el Power Point que elaboré para las clases por si le es útil a alguien interesado en la historia del cuento y la narratología.

Taller literario_El cuento




Hitchcock’s early films

A while ago I wrote about the Hitchcock and Truffaut Tapes. Today I recommend you this website I discovered the other day with links to early Hitchcock’s films: worth taking a look!


The Hitchcock and Truffaut Tapes

If you are, like myself, a lover of Hitchcock’s films, here’s a treasury of delight for you: the Hitchcock and Truffaut audio tapes (1962) that were the base to Truffaut’s famous book Hitchcock: A definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock. You can find them HERE.

Thanks for this invaluable hint, Dave!


Clandestí: Invisible Catalan Cinema Under Franco

Clandestí: Invisible Catalan Cinema Under Franco focuses on a generation of independent filmmakers whose innate unwillingness to conform with facist Franco’s regime forced them to produce, distribute, and exhibit radical films in Catalonia, with the furtive hope of sending them into the rest of Spain. Connected with workers’ movements and political parties, these authors put their images in the service of anti-Franco causes, and even managed to organize a distribution network through recreation centers, private homes, cinema clubs, universities, social and cultural associations, and even parochial schools.”

25 – 30 November at the BFI, London

More info HERE.

Additional study materials about Catalan Cinema under Franco HERE.



I just wanted to let you know that I have updated my links section (film links and more), and added some functionalities to the web (“like” button, “share” button).



5 Facebook Tips For Filmmakers by Social Media Expert Linda Nelson

I recommend you an interesting podcast on how to use Facebook to enhance visibility of your film. You can listen to the podcast HERE.

I also recommend you to subscribe to Stacey Parks’ Independent Film Blog. Ms. Parks has spoken and lectured extensively on the subject of independent film distribution across the United States and Europe. She is the author of “The Insiders Guide To Independent Film Distribution” and the founder of Film Specific.


Alternative film financing and the future of documentary filmmaking (video interviews)

I have found several interviews about alternative film financing conducted during the first session of the Documentary Campus 2010. They can be found HERE.

Source: Reelisor Documentary Networking