If I close my eyes, the single image from it burnt into my retinas is of Charles Hope sardonically half-warning participants about the historical Class A drug that is archival research. Yes, he personally had partaken of it, and indeed fully inhaled; yes, truth be told he'd actually quite enjoyed it, and even become quite good at it; but being realistic, the chances that you'll find anything surprising in any archives anywhere range from Slim Jim McThin to zero.
As to the other speakers, Charles Burnett was (as always) excellent value: I could happily listen to him all day. Ingrid de Smet was good, and... look, every lecturer was good, so that's not the problem at all.
I'll try to explain what's been bugging me for a month - and why. You see, about halfway through my Master's, a particular kind of critical faculty awoke in me that takes the form of an active intuition that (in effect) 'listens in'. And so I get a parallel commentary on the subtext of what I'm reading: not "do I believe this (y/n)?", but "to what degree am I comfortable accepting this account is psychologically representative?" In a way, this added non-binary dimension gives me a sort of novelistic insight into non-fiction, and helps me smell not a rat, but the degree of rattiness. You can see this same kind of thing at play in Carlo Ginzburg's wonderful history books (which is probably why I've got so many of them).
And the funny smell I sensed here wasn't from the academics (who were all hardworking, insightful, pragmatic and great), but from the Warburg Institute itself. You see, for all the Renaissance pictures of obscure Greco-Roman deities filed upstairs, the biggest mythology stored there is about the usefulness of the Warburg.
What you have to understand about the Warburg Institute's collections is that they were constructed as a kind of mad iconological machine by Aby Warburg for Aby Warburg to decode the secrets hidden in Renaissance art... but which were never there to decode. The Warburg Institute is therefore a kind of bizarre 1930s steampunk Internet, where every sub-page is devoted to the art history semantic conspiracy behind a different artefact (and the whole indexing is 50 years behind schedule).
As an analogy, David Kahn, with perhaps more than a hint of a sneer, calls the study of Baconian ciphers "enigmatology": the study of an enigma that was never there. And "Voynichology" as often practised seems little different to Kahn's "enigmatology"? (Which is why I don't call myself a "Voynichologist" any more: rather, I'm just an historian working on the Quattrocento mystery that just happens to be the Voynich Manuscript).
In my opinion, "Renaissance iconology" (which Dan Brown fictionalized as Robert Langdon's "symbology" in the Da Vinci Code, bless him) or indeed what one might call "Warburgology" is no less a failed thought-experiment than "enigmatology", or indeed "Voynichology": all share the same faulty methodology of requiring an hypothetical solution in order to make sense of something else uncertain.
But what of the man himself? For me, I see Aby Warburg's quest as being driven by the desire to move (through his research) ever closer to touch Renaissance gods on earth, through the clues about their Neoplatonic Heaven they left hidden in their works. But now we see that they were instead just jobbing artisans with books of emblems tucked into their work smocks: life is disappointing.
Look, I feel an immense amount of goodwill towards the Warburg Institute and all the people who sail in her: but a large part of me wishes for the mythology that shaped it to fall into the sea. Perhaps the sincere search for a God or Goddess is simply a kind of displaced search for dead, absent or idolized parents in the noise of the world, not unlike Mark Romanek's film "Static": if so, I think it's time we called off the search for Warburg's parents.