From July 9-20, I was able to attend Summer School: Museum Objects as Evidence at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It was an incredible experience–combining conservation techniques, scientific research, and digital technology as well as discussions concerning museology, display, material culture, and provenance analysis. It lived up to its theme of exploring objects apart from their textual/historical context and also brought up questions as to how these forms of evidence work together. The entire experience was not only based on the idea of collaboration–most importantly between the arts and sciences–but also promoted the concept on a basic level with participants freely conversing with and/or learning from and experiencing various tasks alongside experienced curators, educators, conservators, data scientists, and professors of art history. I also came away with a fondness for my peers, who were astute, intelligent, enthusiastic, and open.
Going behind the scenes meant the ability to see shipwrecked metalworks, multi-part ceramics, jewelry, paintings, life-casts in silver, and much more–all of which were from centuries ago. And these were not simply seen by us, but seen in various dimensions–through a microscope, under different spectral lighting, and as readouts of their materials from laser spectroscopy. We learned how conservators and others decide how and why to preserve something a certain way, to rebuild or repaint–as well as examining its original making–and how to display it or make it accessible to wider audiences.
The program for the two-week summer school can be found here.
I include some photos here from Thijs Gerbrandy.