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Cataloguing medieval images : from documentary language to scientific research

Indexer les images médiévales : du langage documentaire à la recherche scientifique

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Published on Monday, April 27, 2020


Dans le cadre des activités liées au projet régional ANIMONS, la photothèque du Centre d'études supérieures de civilisation médiévale (CESCM) organise deux journées d’études sur l’indexation des images médiévales. Les présentes journées d’études visent à s’interroger sur notre pratique actuelle de l’indexation des images médiévales, ainsi qu’à ses enjeux et ses possibles évolutions. Les questionnements porteront notamment sur les thesaurus et lexiques, qui sont l’une des principales composantes de ces bases de données iconographiques. Les questionnements porteront aussi sur la place des outils numériques dans un processus encore tributaire de l’intervention humaine.


Date and place

November, 25-26, 2020, CESCM, Poitiers (France)


As part of the activities related to the regional project ANIMONS, the CESCM photo library is organising two days of study on the cataloguing of medieval images. The last decade has seen a considerable increase in the number of databases or platforms dedicated to medieval images. Some of them are dedicated to making museum or library collections accessible, while others opt for thematic with diversified results. As essential tools for researchers, their apparent ease of use overshadows the complex organization of information through the process of cataloguing. Cataloguing aims to produce a « outil sémantique inventé en vue de faciliter la sélection de documents répondant à un besoin d’information précis » (Maniez, 2012). However, those interested in the issues related to cataloguing medieval images are aware of obvious constraints and limitations involved. The earliest projects in the 1990s already highlighted issues such as the importance of integrating current art-historical scholarship, the ekphrastic limitations of the language used to describe images, as well as the need to develop an iconographic thesaurus that was both precise and selective.

The aim of these study days is to examine our current practice of cataloguing medieval images, as well as to consider the challenges related to the maintenance of such databases. Of particular significance are the questions concerning the development of a thesaurus or glossary for an iconographic database. Projects such as EHESS’s creation of TIMEL (Thesaurus of Medieval Images Online), the INHA-funded OMCI (Ontology of Medieval Christianity in Images), and the Index of Medieval Art’s online database at Princeton University certainly demonstrate a variety of ways to address the classification of iconographic subjects in medieval art. The questions will also focus on the place of digital tools in a process still dependent on human intervention. If the development of automatic text recognition has certainly enriched the study of written sources, what about images ? Could recognition of visual elements help/replace the work of indexers in a process that remains long, costly and subjective ?

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • The thesaurus/glossary used for the cataloguing of medieval images.
  • The implications and limits of the transcription of visual elements into written form.
  • New technologies and the automation of cataloguing images.
  • Methodological issues related to the cataloguing of medieval images.
  • The relationship between cataloguing and the production of scholarship.
  • Cataloguing as a pedagogical tool.

The aim of these study days is to set up a collaborative reflection involving French and foreign institutions working on questions linked to the cataloguing of medieval images. These days may include theoretical presentations, practical demonstrations or workshops to familiarise participants with the tools. Proposals may therefore focus on case studies, methodological approaches, specific tools, etc.

Timetable and submission modalities

Please submit your proposals before 10 May 2020.

A title, an abstract of around 500  words and a short CV should be sent to the following address :


A reply will be sent before 15 June 2020 to the selected participants. Travel and accommodation expenses will be covered by the organisers.

Organizing Committee

  • Chrystel LUPANT, doctor in medieval art history, associate researcher (CESCM).
  • Pamela NOURRIGEON, doctor in art history, engineer at the photo library (CESCM).
  • Carolina SARRADE, archaeographer, engineer at the photo library (CESCM).



  • CESCM - 24 rue de la chaine, Cedex 9
    Poitiers, France (86073)


  • Sunday, May 10, 2020


  • indexation, image


  • Pamela Nourigeon
    courriel : pamela [dot] nourrigeon [at] univ-poitiers [dot] fr

Information source

  • Pamela Nourrigeon
    courriel : pamela [dot] nourrigeon [at] univ-poitiers [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Cataloguing medieval images : from documentary language to scientific research », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, April 27, 2020, https://doi.org/10.58079/14uu

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