Saturday, February 1, 2014

Share and Share Alike

A while back, I was at a conference and a fellow conference attendee made a really important observation. Now, the truth contained in this oberservation is one we all know, especially those of us working in Digital Humanities and using the Web for scholarship and pedagogical needs. But his comment really made me realize both how widespread this is and how problematic it has become. The Web is empty.


Ok, so that's not how my colleague put it. And of course it is not literally true. The Internet is full of all sorts of things. But what it now lacks and once had in abundance is the activity of scholars and teachers. Once not long ago, it was common for professors and instructors to upload syllabi, course exercises and materials, articles and thoughts in progress. Truly, the amount of material we all shared regularly with one another and the world was mind boggling. Now, however, our universities encourage and sometimes require us to use Blackboard, D2L, and similar content management software to run classes, upload materials, and so on. Of course, these are all proprietary. They discourage sharing, worry about firewalls, and generally put materials out of reach. Most faculty no longer have a personal web page. Not even me, in my case because the university has it so buttoned down that it is impossible to use. Point is, we no longer share.


This is not the first time we have seen this corporatization, this clamping down on things once freely available. Back in the day, between the “internet” being shared with universities by the DOD, and the explosion of the web, we had BBS, bulletin board services. Folks programmed all kinds of things: games, office software, communication software, and shared it all on the BBSes, delivered of course over dial up (thank heaven for smart modems!). Of course, that has all but become a thing of the past as companies have gobbled up smaller companies and rolled over the individual developer. Rare is a Linus Torvalds or even a Zuckerberg who develop a program and make it free to use. No, the phenomenon is not non-existent; but it is becoming more and more rare.


Someone might point out the various open source projects. Or ResearchGate, Academic.edu, and other such sites where scholars are sharing their materials. And that's true! I don't disagree. But too few are sharing, and most are sharing pre-publication versions of papers, a few will add conference papers, fewer add materials prepped for the classroom or just plain materials not really suitable for publication but very good research tools or data-mined material.


Anyway, the point is, 12-16 years ago when the web was new, we shared things. Now, we don't share as much. Some of this is simply that our home institutions discourage it by making everything go onto Blackboard and like sites. We've seen this before. It hasn't in the long run done us any good other than push up prices, require a constant round of updates, a culture of "let's see if we can X corporation's locks" rather than "let's see who can create the best product."  And so it goes.

 Point is, it is just too easy to give in to the corporatization of our work. We're encouraged to. Just put it all on the university's subscribed site, D2L, Blackboard, something else. And that's fine to a degree; but it does rob a larger audience of your work, of shared community resources, of useful information that we once upon time as medievalists gladly gave one another and our students.


So this is an appeal. I hope to encourage people to once again share more of their work, in particular class materials, freely online. There are multiple ways of doing so for free: a web page, Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Linkedin, etc. Even (but beware the dangers) Dropbox and Google Docs. In the long run, our field would be better off, our students would be better off, and it shows the world just how vibrant and exciting our field is.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Exploring Wellcome Library Manuscripts

Another win for open access to special collections holdings is making the news: the Wellcome Library has made over 100,000 high-resolution images of items in their collections available to the public, all under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 2.0) licenses. For good reason, this news is getting due attention. What struck me was the number of medieval treasures now available--especially manuscript images.

In the cases of some of the Wellcome manuscripts, images provided are just the inside pages with modern descriptions (so hopefully more images from these items will appear in the future). In other cases, there are images of full pages. Many of these are fascinating witnesses to medieval scientific practices, such as an unidentified eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript with Old English medical recipes that Stewart J. Brookes discussed on the DigiPal blog.

I highlight a few others to give a sense of the Wellcome holdings.*

Some of the manuscripts contain astronomical lore, such as this Arabic Horoscope of the Mongol Prince Iskandar, grandson of Tamerlane, showing (according to the description) "the positions of the heavens at the moment of Iskandar's birth on 25th April 1384" (Or MS PER 474).



This horoscope, from The Book of the Birth of Iskandar, is a good witness to the holdings of Arabic items in the Wellcome collection. For example, searching for "Iskandar" with date range between 0 and 1500 calls up 392 results; searching for "Arabic" between the same date range calls up another 83 results.

A few particularly nice images, in fact, are from Arabic books (MS Arabic 421, 437, and 458), showing the bindings of different codices that are instructive for looking at the materiality of these objects:




Other manuscripts contain medical knowledge mixed with other traditions, like the following three images, from a manuscript of the Apocalypse of John (MS 49, c.1420-30): the first, from the Apocalypse; the second, a diagram for urinomancy; the third, a diagram of bloodletting techniques within a zodiac.




For those interested in 15th-century English texts, the Wellcome Images hold a selection of scientific writings from the period. A few good examples: first, a collection of English and Latin scientific tracts (MS 411/3), with the image here from a text "On Unlucky Days"--a particularly fascinating genre of astronomical lore; and, second, a manuscript of the Pseudo-Galen Anathomia in English (MS 290).



This is just a small selection of some of the images that jumped out at me. Certainly the collection is worth much more extensive exploration, and can lend much to bringing medieval artifacts into the classroom.


* On a side note, a few frustrating issues make navigating the site difficult. One is a lack of clear browsing abilities--for example, to browse just manuscripts, or to limit by time or geography. Another is the lack of permalinks for items, making it difficult to cite individual images or item entries in the collection. For this reason, I've provided the low-resolution images here, though high-resolution images are available to download from the Wellcome site.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's End

And so we come to the end, again. Always again, or at least always until the end. Endings have been inescapably on my mind these last few days, especially provoked by Karl’s excellent post at ITM. And, as I'm sure everyone is aware, we are at year's end, with all the existential (and financial and personal and…) accounting that that entails. But, endings are opportunity for beginnings, and so there is some hope for optimism. Or is there? What does it mean to make a new beginning? Does the beginning of a new year mean anything outside of our collective agreement to mark this as the time in which we begin a new sequence of months?

It's also about time for all of us to begin making new resolutions as we look forward to the promise of a new year. In addition to Karl’s ruminations on plucking the grain from the little clergeon in Chaucer’s “Prioress’s Tale” (the dead body of the boy is miraculously singing, and he will only be quiet and restful once the grain is pulled from his tongue), I am mindful of another medieval text: Piers Plowman. More specifically, I’m thinking of D. Vance Smith’s reading of the poem in his Book of the Incipit. Smith gives us a way to grapple with the repeated new beginnings of Langland’s poem -- the poem can’t seem to quite fashion an end, but it continuously fashions new beginnings. Smith observes
the crucial importance of beginnings to the formal structure, theology, and political phantasmatics of the poem suggests the powerful presence of what might be called, rather, an inceptive animus, the epiphenomenon of beginning—the anxiety of beginning that is manifest indirectly as indirection itself, as the reluctance to make closure, or as the irrepressible remnant of what comes before the beginning, which is made to end. (19)
During New Year’s, we’re often possessed of such “an inceptive animus.” Already I’m seeing New Year’s Resolutions, both sincere and glib, all over my various social media feeds. The New Year's Resolution (NYR) is a curious speech act: through it we attempt to call forth a better tomorrow by attempting to dissolve the past. Common and recurring resolutions for myself include the desire to “get more work done” or “be better organized” or “write more,” etc. In each case, the hope for better future behaviors is predicated upon a negative evaluation of past behavior. 

Smith again: “beginnings are a privation of the past in a larger sense: as the annulment of history, of what must become the outside, the exterior, of an event to make the event unique—which is to say, intelligible, initiating, and historical” (21). To make sense of this moment as new, to decide to make it different, we often attempt to annul the moments that gave birth to it.

Unlike Langland’s insistent re-beginning of the poem, we don’t necessarily have the same “reluctance to make closure.” Instead, the NYR expresses a deep desire for closure, but only as a way to redress and make right past experience. “Sure, I screwed up last year, but this year, this year, I’ll fix it all and be better.” 

Inevitably, though, we make the NYR only to break it, often sooner rather than later. The past we seek to annul is indeed an “irrepressible remnant,” always ready to haunt us. We can't fully annul the past, and any gesture to do so only confirms it. 

But, I want to be clear here: I’m not saying that the lazy are always lazy, or the overindulgent always so. Rather, I just think it would be good to remember that while 2014 is a new year, with all the promise that suggests, mostly it’s just the next year, another item in a series whose ultimate length we can’t know. 

So, don't treat your New Year's as some new, final beginning. Remember that it's just one of many. Instead of conjuring away our past selves with futile speech acts, let's just go on, incrementally, with lots of small new beginnings. 

Happy New Year's. So it goes. Etc. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps

Over the past few days, medievalists have been abuzz about a new resource for manuscript study in the digital age: the folks at Sexy Codicology (a team made up of Giulio Menna and Marjolein de Vos) launched the Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps website. I have been personally eager for this launch for several weeks now, since versions of some maps already appeared on Twitter (Giulio Menna first conceived of the maps in July 2013), as teasers for the main launch this week. If the emergence of digitized manuscripts has caused a major sea-change the field of medieval studies, Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps is a rising star to help with navigation.

What are the Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps? Most simply, they present interactive visualizations of thousands of digitized medieval manuscripts in hundreds of libraries geographically plotted on world maps. The maps and data are presented in four basic forms. On the "Standard" map (built on GoogleMaps), each point represents a library, which can be clicked on for more information about the institution, its digitized holdings, and a link. The Heatmap (also based on GoogleMaps) presents a visualization of the concentration of digitized manuscripts across geography--the more manuscripts in a location, the more concentrated the visualization; the heatmap is currently presented as a series of static images, with promises of future developments. The "Fancy" map (built on MapBox) is the most fully developed, an improvement on the "standard" map and heatmap. While it is still in development, the "fancy" map is fully usable and fully interactive, and the creators promise future capabilities that will encompass those of the other maps on a single platform. Finally, the creators give full, open access to the original data used to construct the maps--a complete list of libraries that have put digitized manuscripts online.

Little needs to be said about the quality of these maps, since users can see for themselves that the maps are a useful addition to the field. Instead, I want to focus on three foundational characteristics of the project that make this project excellent. First, although this launch presents some already great resources, the project is not complete but in a state of development. While this may seem to be a drawback for those focused on long-term sustainability and other related issues, for this project it suggests much potential for future improvements. In relation to sustainability and quality, my second assessment relates to the use of already well-established tools. The site itself is built on the all-purpose WordPress platform, while the maps are built on GoogleMaps and Mapbox--all apt choices that have been tested and well met in digital humanities work. Third, the entire project is fully open, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The project creators' laudable openness and willingness to share is already evidenced by the posting of complete data sets, as well as the use of other software devoted to open access (notably, WordPress and Mapbox). It is hoped that other projects associated with digitized manuscripts will follow this same path.

If there is any drawback to the project--a review must have its quibbles, and mine are both minor and hopefully remedied in the future--it is the lack of stable funding. Unfortunately, this does affect the "fancy" map, since the creators are only able to use the free version of Mapbox to create it, and are limited in the amount of space for the maps. Thus, the "fancy" map is limited in numbers of monthly views (currently at 3,000) as well as functionality for zooming in and out on the map. Moreover, the lack of stable funding hinders the overall progress; although the creators seek to improve the "fancy" map, they admit that their efforts at this point must go toward the "standard" map and heatmap. (If you do want to help defray costs, the creators suggest checking out the Sexy Codicology store.) With these concessions, however, it should be acknowledged that the project team has already achieved extraordinary feats without formal financial support. This fact in itself should speak to the potential for still greater accomplishments.

There is no doubt that the launch of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps is already a success. Yesterday the project blog reported that "In just 48 hours, the website was visited around 3,000 times." With such positive response, and still more to come from the Sexy Codicology team, the future of medieval manuscripts online seems a bright one indeed.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Briefly noted -- Accessus: A Journal of Premodern Literature and New Media

Readers of Modern Medieval will want to go take a look at the inaugural issue of Accessus, a publication of the Gower Project. This excellent-looking first issue includes the following essays that bring together disability studies, medieval studies, manuscript studies, and new media:
  • "Blind Advocacy: Blind Readers, Disability Theory, and Accessing John Gower"
                 Jonathan Hsy
  • "Blindness, Confession, and Re-membering in Gower's Confessio"
                                           Tory Vandeventer Pearman
  • "The Trentham Manuscript as Broken Prosthesis: Wholeness and Disability in Lancastrian England"
                                                                                                                               Candace Barrington
  • "Civility and Gower's 'Visio Anglie'"
                                                                                         Lynn Arner
In the "Introduction," Editors Georgiana Donavin and Eve Salisbury describe the work of Accessus and of this volume as follows:
Inventive theoretical approaches and the use of current technologies in interpreting Gower’s poems have been part of The Gower Project since its inception. To en-vision, re-vision, and see things anew is something of a leitmotif among the several essays presented here, all of which enable us to engage actively in contemporary concerns and at the same time recognize how the writings of the past encourage us to embrace such opportunities.
Hopefully next week I'll have a review up of these four essays, but for now, some finals week(s) reading for all of you. Also, see Bruce Holsinger's take over at Burnable Books.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

On Mass Killings: The Importance of "Cultural Ether"


NB -- this was originally published at Medium, where no one saw it (probably deservedly). Regardless, I'm republishing it here. 

*****

BL MS Royal 19B XV, f. 37v.
(early 14th c.)
There’s a lot to like about Ari Schulman’s article in last week's The Wall Street Journal. The very best part is simply this:
“Underlying this grim national ritual, and the pronouncements from all quarters that mass shootings are ‘senseless,’ is the disturbing feeling that these acts are beyond our understanding.”
Schulman then goes on to explain why this itself doesn’t make sense. Psychologists and criminologists know plenty about why they happen, and the reasons are then enumerated (complete with bullet-pointed list). Don’t talk about the shooter. Don’t talk about his (almost always a him) motives. Don’t focus on the victims’ families. Prevent the next event by talking down the significance of this last one. Don’t feed the mental illness of the next mass killer by giving him something to aspire to.

But that list strikes me as problematic — problematic because its prescriptions move towards a trivialization of the event itself in the name of preventing future events. In other words, its prescriptions move the event towards that same “senslessness” that the author decries. Schulman tries to avoid this:
Rampage shootings are fed by many other sources that also must be addressed, of course… [But] these factors are more or less perennial problems of human life and cannot, alone, bear the blame for rampage shootings. In coverage of these events, the focus on insanity particularly risks playing into the need of potential future shooters to convince themselves that the world rejects them, rather than the other way around. The minority who really are psychotic, or just act impulsively, are even more likely to draw their ideas from the cultural ether.
He moves in a productive direction but then draws back, finding comfort in a move towards pathologization. Mass killers become semi-automatons, “activated” by their predecessors, all related, easily categorized. We scientize them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Is There a Comment for this Blog?

Recently, Jeffrey Cohen wrote a thoughtful blog post  (prompted by Christopher Schaberg's post) on why blogging seems like such hard work.

Somehow, blogging has come to feel less dynamic and more permanent. The elevation of the blog as a venue for more "serious work" has a direct relation, I think, to the increasing use of FB and Twitter by many academics. Jeffrey writes the following about why it seems easier or preferable to dash out thoughts on FB/twitter versus composing blog posts:

The immediacy of these two modes makes them seem easy: it isn't really work to place something into circulation in the Twitterverse or FB-Land. The instant commentary is also gratifying. Blogs on the other hand have become a forum more often read than interacted with, as well as great magnets for trolls and spam.
I agree with Jeffrey about the immediacy of FB/twitter, and he goes on to note that composing a blog post takes real labor, whereas a series of tweets can reach the level of stream-of-consciousness. I know why I don't blog enough, and I am not happy with it, but for the moment I am most interested in the idea that blogs "have become a forum more often read than interacted with, as well as great magnets for trolls and spam." What's going on here? Why has the blog comment section become a no-mans-land?

Part of the problem might be how we circulate posts now. We not only write a blog post, but also promote and advertise that post on other social media, and as a result, comments and dialogue seem to find a home on the links, and not the linked pages themselves. During the Great Swervian Dustup of 2013, many of us remarked (on twitter and FB of course) that it was difficult keeping track of the conversation. Comments were popping up all over various social media, and this proved to be a problem because not everyone is connected in the same ways. The rhizomatic quality of social media can be invigorating, but it can also be bewildering and disorienting.


Looking back, I wonder if we have been so good at building community that we have forgotten to build community. I discovered In the Middle when I was feeling particularly isolated during the dissertation. I took the risk and put myself out there by commenting on the blog, under my own name, and folks responded. These early interactions encouraged me, and some of the other commenters on the blog became actual friends. What seemed like a remote and impenetrable field suddenly felt open and even hospitable. So, naturally, when social media came around, it was natural that we would extend those professional communities to other spaces. Because of how we are all so interconnected, I suspect that for many academics (of course, not all), FB can feel as much a professional space as a personal one. And many use twitter exclusively for professional/public discourse.

While anyone can set up a twitter account and then follow most anyone, there is still a barrier to Facebook. Speaking for myself, I feel comfortable following anyone on twitter--there is a different set of expectations there concerning public discourse. But for FB, I wouldn't feel comfortable friending everyone. Nor do I want to. But since FB allows for more robust commenting, this could be a real problem. Although many of us are "friends"/friends on FB, we are perhaps reinforcing exclusive communities even if that is explicitly opposite our goal.


Not only might graduate students feel less than comfortable with friending more established scholars (and really, there is an argument to be made for preserving more personal spaces), but the movement of conversations to FB or twitter make it so that people from other disciplines, fields, and those outside of the University are unintentionally excluded from conversation. And without a possibility of robust comments on a blog, then a blog is nothing more than a mini–journal article.


So, what to do about this?  Given how we share information, I don't really see commenting necessarily coming back exclusively to the blog.  But, we can perhaps do a better job of archiving and updating blogs with relevant comments. Even then, though, there could be a sense of gatekeeping. Perhaps we can also put links to public FB posts where others might at least view the conversation unfolding.  At the moment, I don't have a better suggestion that doesn't include telling people how to use the Internet. But, I think that these questions of community are something we can all think more about.


My public FB link for this post.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Go to HEL!

So. I've thought for years I ought to do something about the History of English Language book choices out there, frustrating as they all are and far too expensive. But I haven't. Then after discussions earlier this year with Mary Kate Hurley and Nicole Discenza and others on this and related HEL matters, I really though I ought to do something about it. Finally, at SEMA last weekend during the HEL roundtable I volunteered. So under the auspices of the Heroic Age journal (because my co-editor has her own dedicated server), we're opening and developing an open source History of the English Language textbook and workbook. So if you have materials written, exercises composed, homepages constructed, links, etc and you are willing to share them with other HEL instructors, send them to me at lswain@bemidjistate.edu and me and my minions will begin organizing and constructing an open source, web-accessible text book out of our collective materials.

Monday, October 7, 2013

“Lost Children” Texts: Returning to the Archive in the “Google Books Era”

[Cross-posted from my personal blog.]

I've been reading Matthew L. Jockers's recent book, Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P, 2013), and I find much of it compelling. One thing that Jockers mentioned--and my reaction to it--has been on my mind for the last few days: the massive availability of texts in our own digital culture. But I want to put pressure on this notion, especially in relation to medieval texts.

My thinking about this issue began to percolate when I read this:
In this Google Books era, we can take for granted that some digital version of the text we need will be available somewhere online, but we have not yet fully articulated or explored the ways in which these massive corpora offer new avenues for research and new ways of thinking about our literary subject. (17)
Jockers' point is, of course, generally taken to be true, and the massive digitization of texts has certainly changed research across the humanities (he addresses copyright issues in his final chapter, "Orphans"). There is no denying the major benefits to scholarship that have come from initiatives such as Google Books, HathiTrust, and Project Gutenberg.

My knee-jerk reaction to Jockers' observation, however, was this comment:*
Though what about pre-modern, unedited texts? Jockers points to his own idealism & problems such as copyright, but there are also other problems of access: e.g., some of these texts have never (or almost never, or not properly) freed from the archive.
Of course, medievalists benefit greatly from free, open access to many texts, particularly those printed before and even into the early twentieth century. In the USA, copyrights up to 1923 have now generally expired--through there are exceptions, such as when estates continue to hold rights--putting all works printed before then in the public domain. It's worth noting that many resources and editions of medieval texts still consulted (such as those published by the Early English Text Society) were printed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There's no doubt that digitization of these texts are game-changers.

Yet, if Jockers is concerned in his final chapter about copyright and "orphan" texts--instances in which ownership and copyright are unclear--I'm concerned about what we might think of as "lost children" texts (though the two types aren't mutually exclusive) that have yet to be brought out of the archive and made accessible to scholars.

Many examples come to mind. One instance that I've encountered and worked on is a Hiberno-Latin commentary on Colossians that survives in St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 1395, which has been mentioned in various scholarship but remained unedited and, subsequently, largely unexamined (see now my transcription and analysis in Sacris Erudiri 2012). This text is just one representative of many Hiberno-Latin texts available only by directly examining the manuscripts; in fact, this issue is the reason for the initiative behind the Corpus Christianorum Scriptores Celtigenae series (published by Brepols). Other examples abound in J.-P. Migne's monumental nineteenth-century Patrologia Latina (PL), some volumes of which are digitally available, while the whole text corpus and searchable database remains locked behind a hefty commercial paywall maintained by Chadwyck-Healey, despite the texts being theoretically available to the public domain. Again, the Corpus Christianorum is relevant here, since the Series Latina seeks to supplant Migne with a new line of critical editions. Like the PL database, however, the Brepols counterpart--the Corpus Christianorum Library of Latin Texts (CCLT)--remains available only to users (or institutions) paying the steep subscription price.

So how do we confront the problem of "lost children" texts if we want to pursue macroanalysis?

Presumably, we need to turn back to the archive, to construct corpora or add unprinted materials to our already existing corpora even before we can begin our macroanalysis. (On a small scale, this has been my intent with my project on "Studying Judith in Anglo-Saxon England".) In both his first and final chapters, Jockers quotes an article by Rosanne Potter from 1988: "Until everything has been encoded... the everyday critic will probably not consider computer treatment of texts" (qtd. 4 and 127).** Jockers follows this up, "It is a great shame that today, twenty-four years later, everything has been digitized, and still the everyday critic cannot consider computer treatments of texts" because of copyright (175). He does offer a caveat in a footnote, remarking, "No, not everything, but compared to 1988, yes, everything imaginable." In our age of big data, it's easy to meet this assumption and accept it; but compared to 1988, much from the medieval period remains in the archive, not even transcribed, edited, or printed, let alone digitized. While some of us are working on computer treatment of texts, there is still much to do in the archives before some of it can be done.

* None of my discussion is meant to denigrate Jockers's work: he makes an excellent case for literary "macroanalysis" and offers a series of superb analyses throughout his book. Furthermore, related to my concerns tangentially, his comments about copyright in the final chapter are salient. The fact that he does not address the same issues that I raise here is not to be seen as a mark against his work, but perhaps indicative of one difference that exists between digital humanities work on 19th-century texts (Jockers's own field) and medieval texts (my own field).

** See Rosanne Potter, "Literary Criticism and Literary Computing: The Difficulties of a Synthesis," Computers in the Humanities 22 (1988), 91-7.

Friday, October 4, 2013

London Layers

I haven't posted any medieval content here for a while, nor have I ever written about my trip to London--so I'm using this post to do both. I've long been fascinated by London, and I finally had the chance to visit (for a conference and sight-seeing) in July. I'm no less fascinated, and my wonder of the city is even more now.

While there, my wife and I had several conversations about how much of a remix-mashup the city is: its earliest bits coming from the Romans, through tot he medieval mercantile hub that it became, into the modern, surviving the Great Fire, with reconstruction and continued growth up to the present.

Layers. Layers of the city are visible everywhere.

There some are pieces--like the Saxon arch in All-Hallows-by-the-Tower (below) and the remains of the earlier Roman building in the basement below, where visitors can still walk--that have been preserved pretty well intact, with more recent (though still medieval) construction around them. Yes, some of the city's treasures are quite well preserved in the many museums, but many are still kept in street corners, in the open, or tucked into churches that have stood against time. There are other bits--like the London Wall, once spanning along the city, now only visible at certain sites--that are crumbling, in need to restoration. And still some sites--like the Tower of London, with its Norman keep and massive fortification built up around it over time--are now regarded as national treasures, teeming with guards and security. Walking along the streets in central London, many of the buildings show the layering quite visibly, as the soot from the Great Fire lines the walls.

The mashup of the city's history is stunning, and a wonder I look forward to beholding again.

So here's a photo-set of just a few of my favorite details.

Sutton Hoo exhibit in the British Museum
The Charterhouse in Charterhouse Square
The Saxon Arch in All-Hallows-by-the-Tower
An Anglo-Saxon stone cross in the basement of All-Hallows-by-the-Tower
A detail from the Tower of London

One site of the crumbling London Wall