Elizabeth Rodini gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, January 24. Her talk was entitled “Active Objects: Rethinking Mobility, Geography, and the Museum.”

Museums are static but the objects they contain are not, or were not, until accessioning rendered them museum pieces, markers on an art historical map of the world. Centering on objects that moved into and through Venice in the early modern period, this talk proposed some alternative means for thinking and talking about the geography of things. Rodini’s approach is both historical and museological. On the one hand, she revisited familiar textual sources to clarify how Venetians understood imported objects with regard to their origins and sites of production. On the other, she considered the challenges posed by museum spaces and the possibility of reanimating geographically constrained collections to tell complex, multi-faceted stories of the relationship of things to place. From these analytical and interpretive perspectives, mobility emerges not merely as a precursor to cultural meaning—evidenced in the borrowing of forms or the migration of motifs—but as a primary vector of meaning in its own right.

Elizabeth Rodini works on cross-cultural encounters in the early modern period, recently focusing on matters of object mobility, recontextualization, and reuse in early modern Venice. Her publications in this field include “Imitation as a Mercantile Strategy: The Case of Damascene Ware,” in Typical Venice? Venetian Commodities, 13th–16th Centuries (Brepols, at press), and “The Sultan’s True Face? Gentile Bellini, Mehmet II, and the Value of Verisimilitude,” in The “Turk” and Islam in the Western Eye (1453–1832) (Ashgate, 2011). She is currently writing a book-length study of Bellini’s Mehmet portrait, constructed as an object biography and methodological reader. She received her PhD from the University of Chicago.

As Founding Director of the Program in Museums and Society at Johns Hopkins University, Rodini works between the museum and academia and has published on museum and collection history, museum scholarship, and cultural landscapes. Her work at Bard Graduate Center will build on a forthcoming article, “Mobile Things: On the Origins and Meanings of Levantine Objects in Early Modern Venice” (Art History, 2018), extending its documentary investigations into the sphere of the museum and exploring strategies for re-activating once peripatetic collection objects. This work will be grounded in artifacts in New York City collections that spanned the Mediterranean literally or conceptually, in order to bridge material, historical, and institutional approaches to the study of early modern mobility.