Keynote Speaker:
Joshua Bell, Curator of Globalization, Smithsonian Institution


Einav Zamir, Bard Graduate Center
“The Empire of Bacchus: Material Networks of the Silk Road and the God of Wine in the East”

This paper explores Dionysian representations in China by not only turning to the examples that exist within its borders, but also to the material networks established though the objects that form a pathway of reception along the Silk trade routes. In other words, this talk intends to trace the origins of symbols, particularly that of revelers, felines, and grapevines, through an examination of objects that could have potentially fostered the incorporation of exotic motifs in Chinese luxury items. In this way, Bacchus’s mythological triumphs become more important than the traditional understanding of his ability to invoke revelry through wine consumption. He is a god who travels, both in myth and reality, and through this movement, he forms a conceptual link manifested in the objects that exist as a result of the Silk Road, one of the most comprehensive material networks established to date.


Elizabeth Merrill, University of Virginia
“The Travel and Treatises of Francesco di Giorgio”

Histories of Italian Renaissance architecture typically concern Rome, Florence and Venice, and analyze buildings as products of urban or regional culture. These studies adopt a singular focus: the work of an individual architect, the history of specific building, or the patronage of a prominent figure. Yet, this time-honored approach to Italian history fails to fully capture the migratory career of the Siena-born architect Francesco di Giorgio. Francesco is a definitive example of the itinerant architect because of the geographical expanse of his travel, the range of commissions he accepted, and the many relationships he developed throughout the Italian peninsula. Composed as practical texts, Francesco’s treatises, or Trattati, were the material records of his itinerant practice. Like Francesco, the treatises also traveled. These multifaceted manuals were compilations of the observations and drawings Francesco collected over of the course of his long career. The books were also shared with other architects, collaborators and assistants, who, eager to learn for Francesco’s expertise, made copies of the manuscripts while Francesco was on site. Through this copy and transfer of models, Francesco’s design theory was disseminated throughout Italy.


Sally Holloway, Royal Holloway
“Eighteenth-Century Love Tokens and the Material Expression of Affection”

This paper uses the correspondences of courting couples in conjunction with material objects from garters to eye miniatures to study the role of gift-exchange during courtship in England between 1680 and 1850. It aims to discover how lovers from different social backgrounds used material objects to mediate relationships and express identity, affection, and memory. In doing so, it divides love tokens into two thematic categories to examine the meanings and purposes of these gifts. Firstly, ‘Textiles’ analyses the role of ribbons and clothing in publicising an individual’s identity and marital status, outlining the dichotomy between ‘fairings’ purchased by men, and their neglected counterpart - embroidered gifts made by women. Secondly, ‘The Body’ analyses the significance of garters and hair-work tokens as parts of the eroticised or symbolic body, evaluating the role of gazing at and touching gifts given by loved ones in encouraging the development of intimacy.

Sarah LaVigne, University of Delaware
“Episcopal Vestments and American Ties to England”

This paper will examine how connections with English history, theology, and textile designers influenced the Episcopal Church’s late nineteenth century revival of vestment use. Rejecting the minimalist style of eighteenth century worship, “high church” rectors donned stoles, surplices, copes, and chasubles instead of simple black preaching gowns. Their vestments and liturgy might have resembled contemporary Roman Catholic worship, but they were consciously emulating a unique religious identity based on connections to England’s Anglican Church.

The Oxford Movement’s writings inspired high church Episcopalians to critique previous iconoclasm and rediscover their ritual heritage, taking the pre-Reformation medieval English Church as their model. British publications on church history, religious symbolism, and sacred embroidery showed Episcopal parishes how to create a Gothic aesthetic. The most elaborate vestments came from British designers and textile companies, while parish and convent workshops provided a local alternative with similar techniques. Transatlantic inspiration and production were integral components of the Episcopal vestment revival.


Catherine Nichols, Arizona State University
“Networking the National Museum: The Distribution of the Smithsonian Institution’s Anthropological Collections”

Beginning in the 1860’s the Smithsonian Institution began routinely removing objects from its collection to exchange for more desirable objects with international museums. After the turn of the century, collections exchanges took new form: objects from the Smithsonian’s “duplicate” collections were routinely given as “gifts” to local and regional museums, colleges, libraries, and schools throughout the United States. This paper interprets the U.S. National Museum Department of Anthropology’s practice of gifting objects from the first systematic anthropological collection from the American Southwest. Analysis of the correspondence between institutions will be used to demonstrate how distributed objects were recontextualized as political currency for the expansion of Smithsonian research, and a strategy of visualizing territorial identities within the nation. Objects distribution networks are presented as means of tracing the entwined histories of the Smithsonian Institution and educational institutions in the United States.


Hi’ilei Julia Hobart, New York University
“From Body to Document: the Hair of John Keats”

This paper will consider the three locks of author John Keats’s hair that exist in the manuscript collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Following the moment of disembodiment when friends cut locks from his head in 1820, through to their incorporation into the archive as a collector’s item approximately one hundred years later, reveals a complex process of transformation from body into archival record. Through transcription and classification, these locks of hair have become part of an archival network of material, conceptual, and personal relationships. Unpacking the circumstances of exchange from Keats to friends, and eventually to collector shows that the line that separates artifact from document is, at times, a blurry one.


Adam Welch, University of Toronto
“On Borderline Research, the New York Corres Sponge Dance School of Vancouver, and the Projects Class: Mail art between the United States and Canada, ca. 1965-75”

While recent scholarship has claimed that conceptual art—and in particular correspondence art—made possible a “geographic decentring” in Canada, many artists nevertheless remained in close and productive dialogue with New York. This paper attends to artists’ practices and activities in Vancouver (Image Bank and The Western Front), Toronto (General Idea) and Halifax (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) in the late 1960s and early 1970s, interrogating the pervasive assumption that through conceptual art Canadian cities became centres in their own right. Producing and exchanging works of art transnationally, by mail, this gift economy served to connect Canadian artists to activities from which they otherwise would have been isolated. This connectivity, however, is often complicated by sentiments of American cultural imperialism and an attendant, and pervasive, Canadian nationalism.


Matthew Gin, Yale University
“The World Has Become Cheerful: Media, Memory, and the Consumption of Design at the 1972 Munich Olympics”

This paper examines the 1972 Games as a spatial phenomenon in which media networks influenced West German attempts to use of architecture and graphic design to create an image of West German citizenship in the midst of the Cold War. In the years following the end of World War II, the West German government focused heavily on the rehabilitation of the nation’s economy and the reconstruction of its industrial infrastructure. The result was a period of unprecedented economic growth in which the production and consumption of goods such as televisions, radios, and appliances flourished. While the material abundance addressed the physical needs of the West German people, it failed at assisting them in reconciling themselves with the violence committed by the Third Reich, leaving many West Germans feeling lost and emotionally unfulfilled. My research examines the ways in which the architecture and visual material developed for the 1972 Munich Olympics became a kind of model for how West Germans should act, think, and consume in a way that made them happy and prepared them to fully engage with the country’s burgeoning liberal democracy.