MI Podcast Recap on the Blog: "The Exciting Adventures (and Misadventures) of Stained Glass" with Dr. Rachel Koopmans

Author: Medieval Institute

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This week, we’re looking back at an earlier episode of “Meeting in the Middle Ages.” In late 2022, we chatted with Dr. Rachel Koopmans, Associate Professor of History at York University Toronto, and Notre Dame alum. We talked with her about her work on the stained glass of Canterbury Cathedral, the preconceptions of ‘medieval’ that students bring to their first medieval history classes, and gratitude for antiquarians of the past.

We tend to think of humanities research as a solitary pursuit; lone scholars in dusty archives, poring over ancient manuscripts. But Dr. Koopman’s experiences researching the glass of Canterbury Cathedral was a reminder that our work is built upon generations of previous scholars. We are, in a real sense, in a conversation with researchers of the past and future. For Dr. Koopmans, this seems to have been a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it is thanks to the tireless efforts of past antiquarians, librarians, and lovers of history that materials survive to us at all. We also rely on their work to be able to chart the history of an object over the years. But there are also those who have been motivated by other forces. They might have falsified documents, forged artworks, or simply altered a narrative to suit their own ends. Dr. Koopman’s own experiences with past custodians of Canterbury who fabricated stained glass and inserted it into the beautiful cathedral windows tell us that we should not uncritically accept the work of those who have gone before us.

This is an excerpt from "The Exciting Adventures (and Misadventures) of Stained Glass: An Interview with Dr. Rachel Koopmans" by Will Beattie and Ben Pykare. Read the full story.