In recent years, technical art history has emerged as a new field of investigation, connecting to other disciplines such as the history of science and technology, conservation, anthropology and material culture studies, which are all equally concerned with the history of making. At the present moment, the field is also witnessing clear signs of academic institutionalisation, with the establishment of journals, such as the one you are reading, and the founding of master programs in technical art history in Glasgow and Amsterdam. However, given that this is a new field of research, the central questions as well as approaches are not yet consolidated and, in fact, continue to be heavily debated. For this reason, we thought that the time was ripe for a state of the art of the field. Although not leading to a consensus, we hope that a good sense of the difference of opinions on the questions, objects of study and methodologies of technical art history emerges from the interviews below. The disciplinary background and professional identity of the interviewees is diverse: from conservation to art history to material culture studies, from museums to universities; with some interviewees happy to present themselves as technical art historians, others rejecting this label.
This forum emerged from a series of technical art history talks, organized by Sven Dupré and Erma Hermens, at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin in autumn and winter of 2014/15. The interviews were conducted by Sven Dupré’s students in the technical art history seminar at the Freie Universität Berlin in the winter semester 2014/15.
- Arjan de Koomen teaches art history at the University of Amsterdam, where he coordinates the Master Program of Technical Art History
- David Saunders is a former principal scientist at The National Gallery in London and keeper of conservation, documentation, and research at the British Museum
- Erma Hermens is Curator of Technical Art History at the Rijksmuseum and Professor of Technical Art History and Studio Practices by special appointment at the University of Amsterdam
- Jørgen Wadum, formerly Professor of Conservation at the University of Amsterdam, is keeper of conservation at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, where he directs of the Centre for Art Technological Studies and Conservation
- Marta Ajmar works at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she heads the V&A/RCA History of Design Postgraduate Programme and co-directs the V&A Research Institute Pilot Project (VARI).
- Marco Cardinali, a specialist of technical imagery based in Rome, is a visiting professor at the University of Stockholm. He is currently doing a PhD in the University of Genua.
- Ivan Gaskell is Professor of Cultural History and Museum Studies at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture in New York City.