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Academic and Public Programs

SITSA

The Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art (SITSA)
June 10–21, 2019

The Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art (SITSA) is an intensive two-week workshop for Ph.D. candidates in art history who feel their thinking will benefit from more experience with object-based and art-technical investigations. Participants from diverse backgrounds and research areas will engage with conservators, conservation scientists, curators, art historians, artists, and other makers in the interdisciplinary, collaborative environment of the Harvard Art Museums and the neighboring Department of History of Art and Architecture as well as other academic and cultural venues in the Greater Boston area. Under the direction of Francesca Bewer, research curator for conservation and technical studies programs at the Harvard Art Museums, SITSA will unite expert faculty to engage a cohort of 15 students in close looking, art making, and the scientific investigation of objects from the museums’ collections.

SITSA aims to introduce emerging scholars to the interdisciplinary approach that is core to the technical study of art, while also building relationships that increase collaboration, enrich research, and enhance scholarship across the field of art history.

SITSA 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 roundtrip travel costs, food, and incidental expenses for the duration of the program.

Course Topic: Color
Hovering somewhere between matter and light, color is key to our perception, navigation, and representation of the physical world. Not only a scientific phenomenon, it is also a subjective experience intimately linked to language and culture. Color can be at once enchanting and challenging, propelling thinkers and makers of all sorts—philosophers, artists, alchemists, and scientists, among others—toward exploration, experimentation, and discovery. Developments in theory and practice, together with the histories of trade and technology, taste and fashion, and arts and culture, have influenced the aesthetic, economic, and social values of color as well as our interpretation of them.

What questions does the theme of color invite? How do they contribute to the critical and methodological discourses of art history, conservation, and curatorial practice? How do they relate to concepts of materiality and technique in artworks and cultural artifacts? What are the limits and possibilities of research into color (by art historians, artists, scientists, conservators, craftspeople), and what additionally could be gleaned from other disciplines? What kinds of new knowledge are afforded through digital imaging and analytical technologies?

Guided by experts, the SITSA cohort will consider theoretical and practical questions about the materiality of color through a mix of transdisciplinary conversations, close looking, and hands-on experimentation. Specific subtopics to be explored include shifts in artists’ palettes, the concept of mimesis, the reproduction of color in various media, color chemistry, and issues related to the alteration of materials over time. Students will explore ways in which the tools and knowledge they acquire during the course can meaningfully contribute to their research, be applied in teaching, and be communicated with diverse museum audiences.

SITSA builds on the collaborative relationship between the Harvard Art Museums’ conservation, curatorial, and education departments. Various collections and exhibitions at the museums—including materials in the renowned Forbes Pigment Collection and the Center for Technical Studies in Modern Art (CTSMA), as well as temporary exhibitions The Bauhaus and Harvard and Japan on Paper—will form the artifactual and material backbone of the course.

Eligibility and Application Process
Students currently enrolled in or completing a doctoral program in North America are eligible to apply. No background in science or conservation is required, and any specialization is welcome. A maximum of 15 participants will be admitted to the program. Applicants will be evaluated on the basis of their academic accomplishment to date and on their expressed interest in integrating technical studies in their own scholarly pursuits and in the field more broadly.

Applicants should submit a cover letter addressed to the Director of SITSA, Dr. Francesca G. Bewer, Research Curator for Conservation and Technical Studies Programs, Division of Academic and Public Programs, Harvard Art Museums, that includes a statement detailing what questions and unique perspective they would bring to the program, and a brief explanation of how technical studies would contribute to their scholarly activities (maximum 1,200 words). This should be accompanied by an academic and professional CV, as well as a letter of support from a faculty advisor that addresses the applicant’s academic standing and their interest in the topic.

The application deadline is March 15, 2019, and participants will be notified by April 17.  

Please submit applications in electronic format to: am_dapp@harvard.edu

Past Programs
2018 course description
2017 course description

2012-2016 course topics and information are available through the NYU Institute of Fine Arts.

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