Conservators and cultural heritage scientists participate in the lives of things through the act of preservation. These interventions are predicated on a cross-disciplinary understanding of the material world, one that is enriched by the broad range of intellectual inquiry performed at Bard Graduate Center. The knowledge of conservators is gained from close access to the material object, often through reconstruction and experiential engagement. Cultural heritage scientists discover molecular evidence for writing material changes into object biographies. Their work exposes technological innovations within the archaeological record and uncovers the microscopic origins of aesthetic phenomena. The BGC plus conservation makes for an environment in which one re-imagines material scholars of the future.

One of the hallmarks of BGC is the seamless integration of teaching and research. Graduate seminars are taught by the faculty who organize the seminar series, symposia, and publications and who select visiting fellows. These research events, in turn, inspire new faculty and student work. In this online series we re-present to you research at BGC as facets of faculty teaching and publishing. Themes reflect curricular foci and areas of special strength.

Meet the BGC: Jennifer L. Mass

Professor Jennifer Mass talks about the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of research and teaching at BGC. She explores the ways in which having a scientist on the faculty allows us to expand the types of questions we ask about objects.

Interview: Soon Kai Poh

Conservation as a Human Science Fellow Soon Kai Poh joins BGC to take the lead on an upcoming exhibition that will be the culmination of our ten-year Cultures of Conservation initiative. Here he talks to Dean Peter N. Miller about the role conservation plays in object-based study.

Symposium: Conserving Active Matter

The launch event for the second phase of Cultures of Conservation, this 2017 symposium looked at Active Matter through the lenses of materials science, history, philosophy, and Indigenous ontologies, laying out a landscape of questions for the project.

Artist-in-Residence: Mark Dion

Constructed for BGC’s lobby, “The Conservator’s Cupboard” is a sculptural citation of a working cupboard, filled with raw materials, apparatus, and books, that explores the mental and material landscape of the conservator, referencing the traditions of the artist’s studiolo and the alchemist’s workshop.

Digital Interactive: Zen for Film

This interactive provides two paths to explore Nam June Paik’s Zen for Film. The first highlights a selected history of the artwork and artist. The second explores a number of artworks that can be viewed as potential inspirations, antecedents, and contemporaries.

REvisions: Conservation

In this REvision, a series in which faculty and invited contributors rummage through BGC’s archives and discover new themes and hitherto unexplored connections, Dean Peter N. Miller pulls together conservation-related conversations, panels, and symposia.

West 86th: 
Miriam Clavir

In this article from our journal, West 86th, conservator Miriam Clavir reflects on her time as a conservator at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Canada, and about the conflict between preserving the physical integrity of an object and preserving its conceptual integrity.

Lecture: Trinidad Rico

In “Heritage, Secrecy, and Failure: The Atomic Project Huemul,” Rico discusses how in the early 1950s, the Huemul Island in Argentina became host to a short-lived secret nuclear fusion experiment, and explores the constructive and disruptive role of secrecy on heritage value.

Object of the Month: Media Installation

In this essay BGC alum Lara Schilling (MA ‘16) considers some of the issues involved in installing Nam June Paik’s Zen for Film (1962–64), and discusses some of the challenges curators and conservators face with electronic media artwork.

Symposium: Conserving Active Matter—Materials Science

This two-day symposium looked at object change, from the molecular to the catastrophic to the magnificent, and examined the surprising afterlives of works of art that are made from continuously evolving materials.

Image Credits: [Symposium: Conserving Active Matter] Seth Shipman, Harvard Medical School. [West 86th: Miriam Clavir] This mask, in the Museum of Anthropology collection was loaned for use in a potlatch in 1983 in Alert Bay, British Columbia. Willie Seaweed (Kwakwaka’wakw: ‘Nakwaxda’xw). Wolf mask, ca. 1920-5. University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. MOA ID# Nb3.1318. Photo: Jessica Bushey. Courtesy UBC Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada. [Object of the Month: Media Installation] Installation view of the exhibition Revisions–Zen for Film at the Bard Graduate Center Gallery. Photograph: Bruce White. [Symposium: Conserving Active Matter—Materials Science] Jan Sluijters. Detail of Children’s Bedroom, 1910. Oil on canvas. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.