Bits, pieces, and pairs
Object of the Month
When is an item considered an item, and thus merit a label in an inventory? Does each spoon in a collection of silverware deserve its own entry? What about each shoe, stirrup, sleeve, or glove in a pair? Surely many questions like these confronted Florentine notaries as they grouped, itemized, then recorded the common objects of household life in fourteenth-century Florence.The neat classification systems to which notaries may have hoped to adhere became problematic especially in the case of...
Alayseta Paule, a grieving daughter and wife
Inventory of the Month
The inventories in the DALME collection have a lot to tell us about the horizons of material culture. But a number of inventories also contain powerful human stories. This month's inventory records the possessions in the estate of Bertran Paul, a laborator or urban peasant who lived in the city of Marseille and died in March of 1348 during the second plague pandemic. The inventory was compiled more than a year after his death by Alayseta Paule, his daughter and the sole member of the Paul...
Enslaved persons in late 14th-century Florence
In theory, estate inventories recorded everything of value in the estate of a decedent. To modern readers, one of the most unsettling features of premodern inventories can be found in the references to enslaved persons. Entries identifying enslaved persons as property are a commonplace in inventories from the colonial United States, where they are often listed at the beginning of the inventory, occasionally alongside the livestock. We also find them in inventories from Mediterranean Europe,...READ MORE
ALME is a collaborative, cross-disciplinary project that seeks to increase our understanding of Europe’s material horizons during the later Middle Ages, an era when changing patterns of production and consumption altered the material world and transformed the relationship between people and things.
DALME has developed a novel methodology that focuses on the extraction of information about material culture from documentary sources, such as household or estate inventories, in a manner that makes it possible to seamlessly integrate textual objects with their tangible counterparts from archaeological excavations and museum collections.
Drawing upon cross-disciplinary practice and advances in digital scholarship, the project aims to make vast amounts of material culture accessible online as open, well-structured and machine-actionable datasets readily amenable to computational analysis, together with the necessary tools, standards, and documentation to enable new research and facilitate dissemination.
Based in the Department of History at Harvard University, DALME brings together a growing network of researchers from institutions across the US and Europe.
We are grateful to the following organizations for supporting the project.