This lecture was originally delivered on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 as part of the Seminar Series, Conservation Conversations.

In the above video Francesca Bewer discusses “Material Matters: Early Scientific Inquiry in Archaeology and Art,” and Laurent Olivier will speak on “Henri Hubert Between Durkheim and Mauss: The Visual Reconstruction of Archaeological Time.”

Conservation Conversations are public research dialogues pairing a conservator and a professor and exemplifying the goal of “Cultures of Conservation,” a five-year curricular initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For more information, visit

  • 6:13—Opening Remarks with Dean Peter N. Miller
  • 10:10—Cultures of Conservation Fellow, Hanna Hölling, Introductory Remarks
  • 16:40—Lecture with Francesca Bewer
  • 55:47—Lecture with Laurent Olivier
  • 1:25:41 - 2:00:00—Panel Discussion with Audience Q&A.

Francesca Bewer is Research Curator at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums. She received her BA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at New York University, her MPhil at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and her PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London. Prior to her current position, Bewer was Research Fellow, Principal Researcher, and Coordinator of the “Renaissance Bronze Project” at the Museum Scientific Research Laboratory of the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles. She has published extensively on the materials and techniques of European Renaissance and Baroque bronze sculpture. Her recent publications include “Bronze Casting: The Art of Translation,” in David Ekserdjian, ed., Bronze (London: Royal Academy of Arts; New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2012); “A Chemist under a Spell: Rutherford John Gettens’s Early Encounters with Chinese Bronzes,” in Paul Jett, Blythe McCarthy, and Janet G. Douglas, eds., Scientific Research on Ancient Asian Metallurgy: Proceedings of the Fifth Forbes Symposium at the Freer Gallery of Art (London: Archetype Publications, 2012); and A Laboratory for Art: Harvard’s Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900-1950 (Cambridge: Harvard Art Museum; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010).

Key to the development of Harvard University’s art museum at the beginning of the last century was the idea that it should serve as a “laboratory”—a term associated with science that connotes a locus of inquiry and experimentation. Bewer’s talk at the BGC will offer an overview of how scientific procedures and thinking were incorporated into the care and study of works at the Fogg Museum, and how that led to its becoming a crucible for art conservation in the US. It will examine interactions between scientists, restorers, art connoisseurs, art historians, museum professionals, artists, and students that the museum was associated with in the days when the boundaries of expertise began to shift and before the necessity of a dialogue between the different voices was widely accepted.

Laurent Olivier is Curator-in-Chief of the Celtic and Gallic Department at the National Museum of Archaeology in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, Professor of National Antiquities at the École du Louvre, and Reader in the History and Theory of Archaeology at the École Pratique des Hautes Études. He received his PhD in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. Olivier has authored over two hundred scientific papers and book chapters. His recent publications include Nos ancêtres les Germains: les archéologues français et allemands au service du nazisme (Paris: Tallandier, 2012); The Dark Abyss of Time: Memory and Archaeology, trans. Arthur Greenspan (Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2011); and L’art gaulois, co-author, Christophe Renault (Paris: J.-P. Gisserot, 2010).

Throughout his career at the Museum of National Antiquities in Saint-Germain, Henri Hubert devoted himself to a huge work of acquisition, ranking, and presentation of the museum’s collections, whose volume doubled during its working life. Intensely occupied by his inventorying, studying, and organizing, Hubert wrote little on his method of sorting the archaeological and ethnographic collections. Drafts of plans and handwritten notes preserved in the archives of the museum now allow us to understand how his original approach was based on the phenomena of transformations and the transmissions of stylistic inheritance.