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Bard Graduate Center’s week-long summer school for conservation students, early career conservators, and conservation scientists is designed to acquaint them with a variety of approaches to scholarship on, and interpretation of, material culture. In the last ten years there has been an increasing awareness of the importance of technical art history on the part of art historians. At the same time there has been an increasing attention to material, materiality, and material culture among students of the humanities. However, there has been no similar attention thus far to bringing the latest humanities-originated thinking and discoveries about material culture to early career conservators and conservation scientists. This summer school aims to do just that.

Humanists have, in the past two decades, been asking increasingly sophisticated questions about the past-through-things, and conservators and conservation scientists have been able to give increasingly precise answers regarding, for example, object biography and ritual use. But the humanists don’t have access to the answer-technologies of the conservators and the conservators are still, mostly, being posed questions about objects that are far too limited. As a result, data that could be critically important for humanists is routinely generated by conservators and scientists, but it never reaches humanities scholars. Institutional and disciplinary obstacles have, until now, kept apart these two species of material culture scholars. In this program participants will hear the perspectives of conservators and cultural heritage scientists alongside those of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, art historians, and philosophers. The program will give participants the opportunity to talk about the life—or lives—of the object, rather than only the circumstances of its birth and the prevention of its decay.

The program will build on the interdisciplinary conversations about material culture we have created at Bard Graduate Center. The basis for the summer school will be our flagship interdisciplinary methods course, “Approaches to the Object.” Summer School faculty will include BGC professors, local conservator partners, and selected visitors.

The goal of this program is to connect the material turn in humanistic scholarship with the practice of conservation and conservation science. Such a combination aims to present conservation as a human science, capable of asking and telling us many things about human interactions, beliefs, and existence (not just about the art work itself, and certainly not just about the art work’s creation or state of preservation in a museum environment).

Applications due February 15, 2019.

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Lead funding provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.