Northwestern University has announced a six-year, $2.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts and expand a partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago.
The new center will offer museums and cultural institutions new methods and technologies for investigating works of art that conservation scientists at Northwestern and the Art Institute have developed as part of an eight-year partnership launched in 2004. That partnership, also supported by the Mellon Foundation, has helped provide scientific insights into many of the Art Institute's masterpieces. For example, imaging technology developed by Northwestern's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science enabled researchers to colorize archival black-and-white photographs of early versions of Henri Matisse's Bathers by a River to illuminate the coloristic development of the work and Matisse's working methods.
Located at Northwestern and staffed by a senior scientist and two postdoctoral fellows, the center will serve as a collaborative hub, facilitating interdisciplinary research partnerships in art studies and conservation on a national scale. Museums and cultural institutions interested in object-inspired research or in having objects in their own collections studied will be required to submit proposals for review.
"Art and technology are prime material evidence of humanity's accomplishment," said Francesca Casadio, the Andrew W. Mellon Senior Conservation Scientist at the Art Institute, who will co-direct the center with Katherine T. Faber, a Walter P. Murphy Professor in materials science and engineering at Northwestern. "By bringing the two together in this center, we will have a chance to enhance our understanding of the world's shared cultural objects and preserve them for future generations. This landmark initiative represents a tectonic shift from the isolated museum scientist to a dynamic hub that will serve as incubator of new ideas and significantly accelerate the rate of discoveries by providing the latest technological innovations brewing in the academic environment."