Steel clashed and locally produced mead was gulped down as nearly 100 “Game of Thrones” fans and medieval enthusiasts descended on the Ohio Union for the first Ohio State Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies conference in more than a decade.
Artisans and performers gave demonstrations over a wide variety of topics during the free event, ranging from falconry to medieval combat at “Game of Thrones” Day Saturday. During these exhibitions, the adjoining rooms were filled as graduate students and professors gave lectures on topics of pop culture within the “Game of Thrones” television series and George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, the books on which the show is based.
This was the first in a new yearly series of events titled as “Pop Culture and the Deep Past” produced by the CMRS, said Graeme Boone, director of CMRS and professor of music.
Nick Spitulski, the program coordinator for the CMRS, explained that while medieval reenactments and exhibitions aren’t totally new to the OSU campus, this event was particularly special to the center.
“The center has not hosted a conference of any kind since about 15 years ago,” Spitulski said. “Everyone who’s participating today is doing so because of their interest in the topic. We have some out-of-state speakers, and they were willing to foot the travel bills themselves.”
However, some speakers had a bit of a shorter commute to the conference.
Erik Fenstermacher, manager of campus area coffee shop Boston Stoker, sat quietly next to a tankard of coffee and stainless steel wire. Fenstermacher was bending rings into place in order to complete a chainmail shirt.
“I have sold them before, but it’s mostly a hobby,” Fenstermacher said. “A good chainmail shirt sells for about $200 and takes 150 to 200 hours to finish. It really isn’t cost effective, but it’s fun.”
Across the hallway from Fenstermacher, away from the quiet lecture rooms, a battle raged. Armed with full-size steel swords, Matthew Star and Kelly Parks, members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, demonstrated what a medieval battle would have been like.
“Unlike what you would see at a renaissance fair, we don’t quite put on a show,” Star said. “What we do is not scripted or choreographed at all. Full speed, full contact, non-choreographed.”
Parks explained why they go to such great and somewhat dangerous lengths to recreate medieval fighting.
“We do the re-enactment as part of our historical research and education efforts. We want people to know about the Middle Ages as they actually were,” Parks said.
Boone said he was very pleased with how the event was going, and described why the CMRS decided to have a “Game of Thrones” Day.
“‘Game of Thrones’ is an extremely popular show, and with the third season finished, there are so many people who are waiting for the fourth season,” Boone said. “I thought, why not have a day where pop culture and the deep past can be addressed, both by academics and by people who participate in this kind of thing?”
The CMRS plans to continue to hold the pop culture event annually, and is slated to screen the “Game of Thrones” series every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Hagerty 455B.