GSAS: "Timecraft"

1921 edition of "A Child's Book of Hours"

Graduate students lead a research conference and exhibition on conceptions of time throughout history.

Along with teaching and publishing, scholarly conferences are a hallmark of an academic career. Since 1997, the Bryn Mawr College Graduate Group in Archaeology, Classics, and History of Art’s Biennial Symposium has given students the chance to create, organize, and participate in a conference of their own. The Fall 2023 symposium, “Timecraft: From Interpreting the Past to Shaping the Future,” took place on November 10 and 11.

Japanese woodblock

“We were thinking about how time is experienced in socially determined ways rather than being a purely natural phenomenon,” explains co-organizer and History of Art graduate student Alexis White. “We invited papers from our three disciplines that engaged with

unexpected or expansive definitions of how time functions.”

Panel topics included “Frozen in Time,” which involved White talking about her research on archaeologist and artist Henry Chapman Mercer’s “Tiles of the New World,” and “Society and Time,” featuring work by researchers focused on time-related topics connected to the ancient Greek cities of Olbia Pontica and Miletus, Song Dynasty willow baskets, and a “curse tablet” discovered near the Serapeion in Carthage. 

Professor Sarah Symons of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, delivered the keynote address, “The Birth of the Hours: Short Time Measurement in Ancient Egypt.” Many attendees were able to participate remotely, thanks to the conference’s hybrid format.

In addition to Bryn Mawr’s presenters, the two-day event brought in 18 graduate students from 17 different institutions, with eight participating online, along with an audience of Bryn Mawr students and faculty. Professor of History of Art Homay King gave closing remarks.

The symposium was accompanied by an exhibition curated by White and Mallory Fitzpatrick, a graduate student in Classics. “Timecraft,” now on display in Carpenter Library through the spring semester, draws objects from the art and artifacts collections of the Tri-College Consortium to explore different cultural, scientific, and/or historical-social concepts of time. It demonstrates that our most familiar or normal-seeming understanding of time is only one possibility of many.

Photos: "The “Timecraft” exhibition includes a metal compass and sundial; a 1921 edition of A Child’s Book of Hours; a 17th-century Japanese woodblock in which the stages of a woman’s pregnancy are connected to the changing seasons; and other objects such as musical instruments, hardened lava, and everyday tools."