High Museum of Art, Emory University receive $1 million grant from Mellon Foundation

Feb. 19, 2019

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Chief Conservator Renée Stein of Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum consults with Mellon Foundation Advanced Conservation Fellow Jessica Betz Abel in the Parsons Conservation Laboratory. Emory Photo/Video

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The High Museum of Art, Emory University’s art history department and the Michael C. Carlos Museum have received a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to continue the Mellon Object-Centered Curatorial Research Fellowship Program for the next five years.

Launched in 2012, the program offers Emory art history doctoral candidates the opportunity to pursue object-based curatorial study under the direction of a collaborative team of curators, scholars and conservators from the partnering institutions.

“We are so grateful to the Mellon Foundation for their continued support of this important program,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Greene, Jr., director. “Direct work with objects and incorporating the latest technologies for evaluation and study are essential to the foundation of an art history education. Utilizing our combined resources, we are training the next generation of curators and offering our museums as their laboratory.”

“The opportunity to work directly with museum objects is a coveted and formative experience for our graduate students, contributing to their development as scholars and professionals,” said Dr. Sarah McPhee, Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of art history and department chair at Emory.

Each year, up to three students are selected by a committee composed of Emory’s art history department faculty. Selected students receive a one-year fellowship plus a full stipend for research and travel in the United States and abroad.

Each student is assigned a curatorial mentor to oversee an object-based research project in collaboration with his or her faculty advisor. The fellowship culminates with a scholarly paper on the primary object, which is published as part of a digital publication series at the High to enable broader access to the students’ research.

Since 2012, 15 fellows have completed the program, working with faculty, curators and conservators to consider questions of object authorship, manufacture, presentation and preservation. This collaboration has become a national model among peer institutions.

In the next phase of the program, funding will support important modifications, including the establishment of a curatorial seminar series; a leadership workshop series with Emory’s Goizueta Business School; travel for fellows, curators and faculty advisors; enhanced fellowship cohort activities with the High’s Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial fellows; and the development of online resources for teaching conservation and technical art history.

Previous fellows at the High have conducted research on objects including Michael Heizer’s “Eight-Part Circle” (1979) in the modern and contemporary art department; “Christ and the Samaritan Woman” (c. 1650), by Il Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), in the European art department; and an 18th-century Rhode Island doorframe in the decorative arts and design department.

For more information on the Mellon Object-Centered Curatorial Research Fellowship Program, visit www.high.org/collections-research and www.arthistory.emory.edu/home/graduate/mellon.html.