Imareal is a wonderful site for the research of medieval paintings and many other topics covered in a set of online databases. This is all supported by the "Institut für Realienkunde des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit" in Krems, Austria. This institute is the home of over a dozen people financed by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The said Austrian Academy is about to lose a big part of its money and thinks about killing 300 - 450 full time jobs including the ones in Krems. There is an online petition attempting to prevent this desaster with over 13000 signatures as of this writing.
Krems on the Danube River, Austria, is the home of IMAREAL (photo: wikipedia)
The institute (I'll spare you from the long title) organises regular conferences on the history of daily life and it has done so in a time, when the topic was very, very unpopular in the German speaking countries. Outside of the collection of sources, the institute focuses a lot on methodology. I had the pleasure to meet the director Elizabeth Vavra in the late 1990ties at my University in Fribourg, Switzerland. Her article "Kunstwerke als Massenquellen. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen einer EDV-unterstützten Auswertung. In: Pictura quasi fictura. Die Rolle des Bildes in der Erforschung von Alltag und Sachkultur des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit. Internationales Round-Table-Gespräch Krems an der Donau. 3. Oktober 1994, Krems 1996, p. 191-205" is one of my all time favorites. I quote the following ladder on the "weight of evidence for the material culture of our past" very often: Paintings, fictional literature, law texts, evidence in written accounts of all sorts and finally archaeological finds and museum pieces. If we take garments as an example, this means the following: You can not really trust a painting of a garment, but if an author describes the garment, credibility is added. Now if you find new evidence in a written judgement or a law text, this is even better. The existence of the said piece of clothing is more believeable if you have written evidence that somebody has paid for it - or that the delivery of a set of these items is confirmed in a port book. And finally, if you happen to find the textile evidence in a pit or in a museum, well, then you can be quite sure that at least one of them existed.
I think that reenactors constantly overemphasize paintings because of the accessibility of historical art and that the neglect written sources. Maybe we are too lazy.
With these toughts on the quality of the work done in Krems, I ask you to support the online petition. More information in English can be found here.
By Christian Folini, Company veteran member.