Francis Frith. The Great Pyramid and The Great Sphinx, 1958. Albumen silver print from glass negative. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gilman Collection, Purchase, William Talbott Hillman Foundation Gift, 2005.

Bard Graduate Center’s week-long summer school for conservation students, early career conservators, and conservation scientists is designed to acquaint them with a variety of approaches to scholarship on, and interpretation of, material culture. In the last ten years there has been an increasing awareness of the importance of technical art history on the part of art historians. At the same time there has been an increasing attention to material, materiality, and material culture among students of the humanities. However, there has been no similar attention thus far to bringing the latest humanities-originated thinking and discoveries about material culture to early career conservators and conservation scientists. This summer school aims to do just that.

Humanists have, in the past two decades, been asking increasingly sophisticated questions about the past-through-things, and conservators and conservation scientists have been able to give increasingly precise answers regarding, for example, object biography and ritual use. But the humanists don’t have access to the answer-technologies of the conservators and the conservators are still, mostly, being posed questions about objects that are far too limited. As a result, data that could be critically important for humanists is routinely generated by conservators and scientists, but it never reaches humanities scholars. Institutional and disciplinary obstacles have, until now, kept apart these two species of material culture scholars. In this program participants will hear the perspectives of conservators and cultural heritage scientists alongside those of anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, art historians, and philosophers. The program will give participants the opportunity to talk about the life—or lives—of the object, rather than only the circumstances of its birth and the prevention of its decay.

The program will build on the interdisciplinary conversations about material culture we have created at Bard Graduate Center. The basis for the summer school will be our flagship interdisciplinary methods course, “Approaches to the Object.” Summer School faculty will include BGC professors, local conservator partners, and selected visitors.

The goal of this program is to connect the material turn in humanistic scholarship with the practice of conservation and conservation science. Such a combination aims to present conservation as a human science, capable of asking and telling us many things about human interactions, beliefs, and existence (not just about the art work itself, and certainly not just about the art work’s creation or state of preservation in a museum environment).

Lead funding provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Program Schedule

The program will start on the evening of Sunday, June 23 with an orientation and welcome dinner. Each subsequent day will entail a morning and afternoon session and lunch will be provided for the group. The final Friday we will conclude with a dinner.

Sunday, June 23
Cocktails, dinner, and orientation

Monday, June 24
Writing Conservation
Conservation and Philosophy’s Questions

Tuesday, June 25
Conservation, Material Culture, and Science
Conservation and Art History’s Questions

Wednesday, June 26
Conservation and Archaeology’s Questions
Conservation and Anthropology’s Questions

Thursday, June 27
Conserving the Contemporary
Conservation and History

Friday, June 28
Presentations, Review, and Discussion of Impacts


Applicants should submit the following as a single PDF: (1) a cover letter, (2) a statement of purpose, (3) an academic and professional CV, and (4) a letter of support from their advisor that addresses their academic standing and their interest in the topic. Applications should be emailed to [email protected]. Your advisor can send the letter under separate cover if preferred. Applications due February 15, 2019.


Core Faculty
Francesca Casadio, Art Institute of Chicago
Ivan Gaskell, Bard Graduate Center
Aaron Glass , Bard Graduate Center
Jennifer Mass, Bard Graduate Center
Peter N. Miller, Bard Graduate Center
Ellen Pearlstein, UCLA
Michael Shanks, Stanford University
Marc S. Walton, Northwestern University

Assisting Scholars
Francesca Esmay, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Marco Leona, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Judith Levinson, American Museum of Natural History
Meredith Linn, Bard Graduate Center
Jessica Walthew, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Catherine Whalen, Bard Graduate Center

Practical Matters


This program is open to current conservation students and recent graduates (within the last three years).

Important Dates

Application deadline: February 15, 2019
Admissions decisions: March 15, 2019
Acceptance and deposits due: April 1, 2019
Program dates: Sunday, June 23Friday, June 28, 2019


There is a $500 registration fee to secure your place in the program. Checks should be made payable to Bard Graduate Center and must be received by March 20, 2019. Checks should be mailed to:

Laura Minsky
Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024


For those residing outside of the New York City area housing will be provided in our residential facility, located at 410 West 58th Street. Participants will be housed in 2-bedroom apartments with another scholar from the program. All apartments are furnished and come with linens and basic kitchen equipment.


International participants will be expected to enter the US in a visa category appropriate to the purpose of their visit. Accepted participants will be put in touch with the Office of International Student and Scholar Services to address questions regarding visa options for their participation in the program. Bard Graduate Center does not provide advisement on the visa process.

Questions should be directed to Laura Minsky, Associate Director of Research Programs, via email ([email protected]) or phone (212.501.3078).