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Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art (Cambridge, 15-18 Jun 22)

The Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art is an intensive two-week workshop for a cohort of 15 pre-doctoral art historians from diverse backgrounds and research areas whose education to date has given them limited access to object-focused technical inquiry, methodologies, and instruction.

This course aims to expose participants to the interdisciplinary approach and tools that are core to technical studies while fostering relationships that further collaboration, enrich research, and enhance scholarship across the field of art history and beyond. Participants will engage in close looking, art making, and scientific investigation of works of art guided by – and in dialogue with -- conservators, conservation scientists, curators, art historians, artists, and other experts, under the direction of Francesca Bewer, Research Curator for Conservation and Technical Study Programs. Throughout the workshop students will take part in peer-to-peer teaching, discuss technical art history writing, and have opportunities to question their assumptions about the physical realities and lives of objects. Together, the cohort will explore ways in which the skills and knowledge they acquire during the course can meaningfully contribute to their research, be applied in teaching, and be communicated in different museum contexts.

The workshop is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each participant will be provided with housing and a stipend of $1,500 to help cover round-trip travel costs, food, and incidental expenses for the duration of the program.

Course Topic: Replication

Through the theme of replication, SITSA participants will have opportunities to consider some of the thorny issues around authenticity, originality, reproducibility, appropriation, and the role that replication may play in ethical stewardship.

There is a long history of artists and craftspeople creating copies or multiples of their work, producing artworks that consist of replication(s), and incorporating reproduction(s) into original works. Familiarization with instruments and materials of a craft to hone skills entails repetition of gestures. Copying others’ works and artistic processes is also a time-honored practice: for some, it is an act of devotion; for others, it is adopted for greater dissemination or to serve remunerative ends.

The life of an artwork may also involve replication at various stages. Reproduction has – and continues to be -- instrumental in the preservation of cultural heritage, both in acts of conservation and restoration. And various kinds of remaking and reconstruction have been commonly adopted by archaeologists and art conservators to better understand artist’s processes, for instance, or how particular works were made and have been altered over time. Increasingly, art historians are applying such hands-on methodologies as well.

Guided by experts, participants will consider theoretical and practical questions about replication. They might consider the limits and possibilities of research into replication (by art historians, artists, scientists, conservators, craftspeople) and what more could be learned from other disciplines. They might also investigate what kinds of new knowledge digital imaging and analytical technologies can provide. Participants will be introduced to the tools used routinely in conservation to gather evidence of manufacture, alteration, and restoration and will carry out in-depth examination and documentation of selected objects from the museums’ collections. Hands-on processes will include some form of casting, printmaking, analog photographic printing, and painting in combination with close examination of works and conversations with artists/practitioners. The museums’ various collections, conservation research projects, and exhibitions will form the artifactual and material backbone of the course.

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