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Linda K. Anderson, UTD PhD Aesthetics Candidate

“On Cutting” (2017) Photo courtesy of the Minding Making Project, Harvard University

The Technical Art History Colloquium: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, NL

“Minding Making: Hands-On Learning in the American University”

For art historians, writing about art objects in history has generally taken precedence over writing about the making process.  Several Dutch institutions have joined together to unravel this “vertical hierarchy” in order to better understand the relationship between the two: minding and making.

The Technical Art History Colloquium is a joint effort of Utrecht University (the group ARTECHNE), the University of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, and the University of Groningen. ARTECHNE forms the core of the group, concentrating its efforts on technique in arts, dating from 1500-1950 at Utrecht University.  ARTECHNE hosts the Colloquium gatherings and in June, Glenn Adamson, a Senior Scholar at Yale Center for British Art, presented a unique American viewpoint.

ARTECHNE hosts workshops, labs, a database, people and blogs to promote understanding of the expanding nature of art history, conservation, and the most recent approaches to art historical practices.

The meeting at the Rijksmuseum featured Adamson’s presentation “Minding Making: Hands-On Learning in the American University”. Adamson presented the “Minding Making Project” at Harvard University. The project aims to collapse this hierarchy by equalizing the emphasis on minding of objects over the physical making of objects. Harvard seeks to create an equal relationship atmosphere rewarding through knowledge of both sides (minding and making), benefitting scholars, makers, museums, conservators and the university. Adamson stressed the need to better understand the role of makers with the hands-on learning of skills. He believes the closer the two (minding and making) come together, the easier the vertical hierarchy can be broken down. Adamson demonstrated how students physically learn the making process and thus can better understand the minding of the objects.

Adamson described the project as an effort to react against the world of digital screen technology in art schools. While acknowledging the benefits of technology, Adamson emphasized that scholars studying materials need the physical world experience of object making. Adamson demonstrated the process of making in several locations: Columbia University’s focus on modern craft techniques, Yale University’s conservation team and Harvard University’s Minding Making Project.  Adamson stressed the need to “turn to the materiality of objects” in order to understand the making process, while also contributing to the minding process.