Project looks at 300-year-old book

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Ovid's Metamorphoses
Ovid's Metamorphoses by Sarah Craske

Have you ever sneezed on a library book and then wondered how many other people have done the same thing before you?

A new project at the University will analyse a 300-year-old English copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses which, as it has passed from reader to reader, has picked up layers of biological history in the form of bacteria, fungi, viruses and skin cells.

The project, being led by Dr Charlotte Sleigh, of the University’s School of History, will see her joining scientist Simon Park and artist Sarah Craske to work together on a single, jointly-agreed piece of research, ‘reading’ the book through this biological lens.

The University’s project is one of only seven to receive new Innovation Award funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under a scheme to explore the theme of Science in Culture.

Metamorphoses, a collection of stories in which transformations play a central role, is the perfect choice of object for the study, said Dr Sleigh. She described it as ‘a metaphor for understanding the ways in which science and art hybridise to create new meanings for us, in a world that is packed with data of biological, literary and visual varieties’.

A final exhibition of the project work will encourage visitors to reflect on their own opinions and experiences of the art/science boundary as well as the languages and the practices that are used in each field.