The Very Rev Jonathan Greener and Professor Mark Goodwin sign the MoU.

University of Exeter and Exeter Cathedral mark pioneering research collaboration

A pioneering research collaboration, which seeks to uncover the secrets of some of the UK’s most significant historical books, documents and artefacts, has received a significant boost.

The University of Exeter and Exeter Cathedral have strengthened their research partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), at a special ceremony on Wednesday, March 20th.

The MoU not only marks the range of innovative work already carried out by the University and the Cathedral, such as the digitalization and analysis of the Exeter Book from the 10th Century, but also cements future collaborative research projects and funding bids.

The new agreement was signed by Professor Mark Goodwin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) at the University of Exeter and The Very Reverend Jonathan Greener, Dean of Exeter.

Professor Goodwin said: “Collaborative agreements, such as this one, enable the University to work even more closely with valuable partners in the South West region and beyond.

“Through working with organizations such as Exeter Cathedral, we are able to share expertise and facilities and use the region’s excellent history to enhance understanding and develop employability skills.

Very Rev Jonathan Greener said: “This agreement moves the relationship between the University and the Cathedral on to other areas of our work, beyond the library and archives. It signifies that we will work together explicitly and intentionally where possible. Such collaboration will benefit both of us.”

The University and the Cathedral have already enjoyed a successful research partnership in recent years.

Most notably, the University’s Digital Humanities Lab have created a digital copy of the Exeter Book – a unique, 1000-year old manuscript which preserves much of the poetry known to have been written in the English language before the Norman Conquest.

It is one of the earliest witnesses to English literature known to survive anywhere in the world and described by UNESCO as the foundation volume of English literature

The project has seen each page of the Exeter Book captured on digital camera equipped with a high-resolution lens. This has enabled researchers not only to examine the text of the book but also its physical make-up, and in particular the animal-skin parchment on which it is written. Delicate engravings that decorate the margins have been seen clearly for the first time in a millennium.

Researchers from the University are working with Cathedral staff to use the these new insights to bring this exceptional book to the attention of a wider audience, whether those who know Exeter Cathedral well or those visiting the city for the first time.

This is one of a series of collaborations to digitize and research the cathedral’s treasures and to present them to visitors. Remarkable wax figurines – votive offerings placed on altars in the fifteenth century as a ‘thank you’ for prayers answered – are being scanned in 3D in preparation so they can be seen more widely. The books and vestments of Exeter’s greatest medieval bishop, John Grandisson (1327-69) will also be the subject of a new project in 2019/20.

Exeter has been successful at combining heritage research alongside research in immersive technologies and presence research, developing  the Immersive Heritage Experience, backed up by more than £2.5 million of research collaborations with partners including Exeter Cathedral with the Vista-AR programme led by Professor Andi Smart and his team in the Business School, RAMM, English Heritage, Historic England, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, National Space Centre and the City of Florence

The University currently has a number of MoUs and Collaborative Agreements with key organisations across the South West, including Powderham Castle and the RAMM in Exeter, the Cornwall Museum Partnership, English Heritage and the South West Heritage Fund.


Date: 21 March 2019

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