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Materials Lab

Teaching & Research


The Materials Lab team works with faculty to develop course-specific workshops that complement close looking at works in the collections with hands-on experimentation and conversations with experts. The lab regularly hosts faculty from the Department of History of Art and Architecture to enhance student understanding of artistic tools, processes, and materials; the staff welcome collaboration with faculty from a broader range of schools and disciplines.

The lab recently hosted Professor Charles Wu and his students from the Harvard Business School to discuss conservation issues and the art market. His students also experimented with a Renaissance painting technique, inspired by the recent sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. Professor Jerry Mitrovica and his earth and planetary science students spent time in the Art Study Center with Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies scientists carving stone and creating art with paints they made from mineral pigments. Lecturer Shari Tishman and participants from her J-Term course, Slow Looking, examined making as a form of research by deconstructing objects to further understand their materiality; they then engaged in printmaking using elements of the objects they had taken apart.


Group Workshop Opportunities
The Materials Lab works with Harvard undergraduate and graduate student groups interested in enhancing their understanding of artworks, materials, processes, and other course-related topics, through hands-on experimentation. The lab has engaged students with diverse interests in workshops ranging from sketching in virtual reality to exploring possibilities in educational programming with participants from the Student Museum Conference.

Graduate Student Internships
The lab offers internships to graduate students with diverse backgrounds and interests who are enthusiastic about the technical study of art, the arts and education, and the museum-as-laboratory. Interns work on Materials Lab programs developing hands-on experiments with artists’ materials and techniques, creating related presentations for public audiences, and supporting workshops. Candidates must be registered graduate degree students in good academic standing during the internship period. They may apply for a single semester or a full academic year. Application information is posted in the spring for the following fall. Inquiries are always welcome.

2017–18 Interns

Jessica Bardsley is a filmmaker and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. As a Materials Lab intern, Bardsley is assisting with instruction during Spring 2018 cameraless filmmaking workshops. She is also helping develop effective video documentation for the Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art (SITSA).

Katherine Taronas is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History of Art and Architecture, specializing in early Christian and Byzantine art. As an intern in the Materials Lab, Taronas contributed to the development of the Spring 2018 workshops on Byzantine tapestry and cameraless filmmaking.

Jordan Koffman is a graduate student in the arts in education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Koffman’s research focuses on the positive correlation between arts involvement and learning outcomes. As an intern in the Materials Lab, Koffman is supported the development of Spring 2018 workshops, with a focus on effective pedagogy. She also assisted in the preparation for the Summer 2018 SITSA workshop.

The Materials Lab is home to the Summer Institute for Technical Studies in Art (SITSA), an intensive two-week workshop focused on object-based and art-technical research for Ph.D. candidates in art history.

Please visit the SITSA page for further information.