I'm glad to say that the council of the Faculty "Artes Liberales" accepted to offer its academic patronage to the conference "Falconry – its influence on biodiversity and cultural heritage in Poland and Europe" that will take place in Supraśl (eastern Poland) on 16th-17th October 2015. I'm also very glad to participate in the scientific committee of this event.
The international conference will put into the limelight the existence of "Sokolarnia", an ecological educational center of the Podlaskie Museum, made possible thanks to the support received in the framework of the Norway Grants and the 2009-2014 European Economic Area Financial Mechanism. This project is "an important undertaking aimed at the popularisation of predatory birds' protection and increase of awareness in the society regarding the role of these animals in maintaining the biodiversity of our natural environment". It is thus mainly a center of breeding birds of pray in order to strengthen their wild population. On the other hand, "Sokolarnia" also organizes numerous events, such as classes for children, adolescents and adults concerning diverse species of birds of pray: falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls.
Any contemporary attempt at breeding birds of pray is obviously based upon - or would have a great interest in - the knowledge and expertise accumulated throughout the centuries of intense relationship of man and the falcon. The culmination of this cultural development is located between the end of the Middle Ages - when the flourishing of falconry coincides with the birth of a new spirit of curiosity towards nature - and the Renaissance. An abundant literature of falconry treatises has been composed both in Latin and in the young national languages. I believe the activists and ecologists working with birds of pray may benefit from my philological competence and get access to this accumulated heritage of detailed observation and expertise, that may not always be completely obsolete. On the other hand, a confrontation with contemporary practitioners and their expertise may help to solve many riddles that concern a medievalist and a science historian.
The late Middle Ages and the Renaissance are the times of a true "falconry craze" throughout Europe. This is also a part of our own cultural heritage in Poland and a proof of our deep connection to the finest of the European culture, both in its proto-scientific and aulic aspect (falconry was a field of intense experimentation and a forge of empirical mind that later on gave birth to science; at the same time, it was an important part of the courtly life, an emblem of power and symbolic supremacy). This is why I hope this conference will enlarge the scope of the educational actions to include elements of culture and history. The place of falconry in the historical context, so important for the medieval and early modern culture, is still largely unknown to the general public In Poland. This is why I'm very happy that the project is not limited to its main scope, connected to biodiversity and the target of reintroducing or actively protect critically endangered species, and includes a larger awareness of the cultural and historical context that is to be traced behind the silhouette of a bird of pray.
As for myself, I'm quite embarrassed having to chose just one topic for my presentation. Of course, I've gathered many of these medieval falconry treatises and I've been working on them. On the other hand, I would like to prepare a presentation issued of the experience of introducing falconry into a transdisciplinary curriculum of studies at the College of Liberal Arts, University of Warsaw. Many aspects of this experiment are larger than falconry itself. The main question, from the perspective of the university teaching, is to know how to join two spheres of expertise that usually go separate: science and humanities. Theoretical basis of such an endeavor has been given in such works as Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson (1998), yet the practical issue of building a "consilient" syllabus is still open. Falconry is a pretext for giving a practical answer to such a question.