Call for Papers: Renaissance Architecture in the Archives. Dublin, 7-10 April 2021

The Renaissance Society of America warmly invites submissions for its 67th Annual Meeting, to be held in Dublin, Ireland on 7–10 April 2021.

The session “Renaissance Architecture in the Archives” is sponsored by the European Architectural Histories Network.

For the purist, to know a building is to experience it first-hand, sensorily – to see its forms, to hear its echoes, to touch its surfaces, and to feel its spaces. Of course, history does not always allow for this full experience. For buildings of the early modern period – few of which survive, and even fewer, if any, in their “original” form – the historian must rely on “secondary” sources: drawings, commentaries and treatises, correspondence records, and contracts. It’s from the archives that the great histories of the Renaissance Europe’s iconic constructions unfold: the Duomo of Florence, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, the Royal Site of El Escorial, the numerous palaces of merchant princes. The study of architecture through the archives likewise unveils works that would otherwise be invisible: constructions and monuments, long ago destroyed; ephemeral designs and stage scenery; unrealized feats of engineering; legal disputes; and theoretical debates. It’s in the archives that we also learn the extraordinary tales of the unsung protagonists of building design.

For centuries, the archives of Renaissance architecture were largely fixed and immobile, providing scholars with a wealth of information – at times, electrifying, at times, terribly banal – of the history of the built environment. Yet the archives have evolved, slowly over the course of the twentieth century, and increasingly so in recent years. New technologies have changed how documents are located and accessed. Drawings, manuscripts and rare printed sources have not only been digitalized, but have also been made Open Access. Within the archive, scanning devices and cell-phone cameras allow the historian to assemble years’ worth of data in a single afternoon. Off-site, computer software facilitates the processes of cataloguing documents, and even their transcription and translation. Where previously extensive time, training, resources and patience were necessary to access the precious records of Renaissance architecture, now these treasures can be easily retrieved by even the casual researcher in a distant locale.

The changing nature of the archive introduces exciting new opportunities, but also caveats and questions. It’s clear that the virtual world is no real substitute for first-hand exploration: the accidental discoveries in the library or archive; the feel and sight of a drawing, manuscript or book; the shadows, the light, the sense of a place. For this panel, we invite papers that examine the “architecture in the archives” in its many forms and meanings. Papers might consider different archival sources and the light they shed on architectural history.  We welcome submissions that point to new directions in archival research or highlight recent findings. Papers might also reconsider or “re-read” published documents. We are equally interested in submissions that address research methodologies and the challenges brought about by new technologies.

Please send proposals by 1 August 2020 via email with the subject line “RSA 2021” to Nele De Raedt (nele.deraedt@ugent.be) and Elizabeth Merrill at (elizabethmerrill11@gmail.com). The proposal should include a title (15 words max.); an abstract (200 words max.); and a one-paragraph CV (in prose, 200 words max.). Provide also full name, current affiliation, and email address.

Submission guidelines are available at https://www.rsa.org/page/AnnualMeetingSubmissionsGuide

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