Annual Research Initiative

Each year, the Lise Meitner Group’s Annual Research Initiative considers the practical and theoretical repercussions that a specific form of loss poses for the discipline. It brings together scholars, conservators, curators, and artists to promote research that explores what those repercussions mean not only for objects but also for our approach to them. 

In 2022–23 “Waste” examined what we intentionally throw away. In 2023–24 “Loot” addresses things that are taken away or intentionally destroyed. Upcoming yearly initiatives will be devoted to alterations and lacunae. The Initiatives encourage a broad rethinking of loss as something that can materially transform, conceptually reclassify, and otherwise uncover new categories of object – a force that shapes both what is left of the history of art to study and the biases, limits, and lenses that inform how we study it.

Conceived in collaboration with affiliated academics and pre- and postdoctoral research fellows, each Initiative culminates in a multi-day series of events. At the core is an international conference that brings scholars together around a single topic. This convening is complemented by partnerships with local collections and institutions, resulting in a calendar of related programming that includes special presentations by artists, keynote addresses by leading experts, roundtables, and site visits around the city of Rome – itself a landscape of objects lost, spoiled, reused, and recovered. 

The outcomes of each Annual Research Initiative are collected in a volume of essays, forming part of a dedicated five-volume editorial series published by Officina Libraria. This is the central collective output of the Lise Meitner Group. 

2022/23: Waste 

2022/23: Waste

The initiative addressed the materiality, spatiality, and processing of waste in the early modern workshop.

Collaborations: Association for Art History; St Andrews Network for Climate, Energy, Environment and Sustainability
Fellows and guest scholars: Ruth Ezra (St Andrews/eikones)
Site visits: Monte dei Cocci, led by The British School at Rome; The American Academy Sustainable Food Project
Outcome: thematic issue in West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture; collected volume in the Lise Meitner editorial series published by Officina Libraria (both forthcoming in 2024)
Conference organizers: Ruth Ezra (St Andrews/eikones), Francesca Borgo (BHMPI/St Andrews)
Keynote speakers: Simon Werrett (UCL), Vittoria Di Palma (USC)
Artists’ talk: DOM in conversation with Marco Armiero (L’era degli scarti/Wasteocene, 2021)

Event Page; Call for Papers; Poster; Program
2023/24: Loot 

2023/24: Loot

The initiative is investigating the ways in which conflict and its resolution moved, modified, and reclassified art objects in the long early modern period.

Collaborations: Museo dell'Arte Salvata/Museo Nazionale Romano; The Inheritance of Looting, University of BernSt Andrews School of Art History
Fellows and guest scholars: Sarah Rosenthal (Harvard); Sarah Petrilli Jones (Yale/Scuola Normale Superiore/American Academy); Francesco Guidi (BHMPI); Julia Vázquez (BHMPI); Guido Rebecchini (2025, The Courtauld)
Site visits: Palazzo della Marina; Museo Centrale del Risorgimento; Sacrario delle Bandiere; Istituto Storico e di Cultura dellArma del Genio; Museo delle Civiltá; Chiesa di Santa Maria in Vallicella; Museo Storico Navale
Outcome: collected volume in the Lise Meitner editorial series published by Officina Libraria (forthcoming in 2025)
Conference organizers: Julia Vázquez (BHMPI), Francesca Borgo (BHMPI/St Andrews)
Keynote speakers: Ananda Cohen-Aponte (Cornell), Erin Thompson (CUNY)

Event PageCall for Papers; Poster; Program
2024/25: Rework 

2024/25: Rework

Erasing the original state of the object, alterations reflect shifts in taste, circumstance, and objectives. This initiative takes the most easily altered support, paper, as its main case study.

Collaborations: The Paper Project by Getty; Istituto Centrale per la Grafica; Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano; Fondazione Camillo Caetani; Gernsheim Study Days
Fellows and guest scholars: Camilla Colzani (Università di Urbino), Alice Ottazzi (I Tatti), Helen Kohn (Goethe University of Frankfurt), Agnieszka Dziki (University of Warsaw)
Conference organizers: Tatjana Bartsch (BHMPI), Johannes Röll (BHMPI), Francesca Borgo (BHMPI/St Andrews)
2025/26: Lacunae 

2025/26: Lacunae

The initiative explores the compensatory methods of confronting lacunae as they occur across disciplines, looking beyond the question of structural reintegration.

Fellows and guest scholars: Chiara Capulli (BHMPI), Irma Passeri (Yale University Art Gallery), Cleo Nisse (University of Groningen), Ronah Sadan (2024, Aarhus University), Annika Finne (2023, IFA), Rossella Monopoli (2023, Warburg Institute), Oliver Wunsch (2023, Boston College)
Conference organizers: Caroline Fowler (The Clark), Francesca Borgo (BHMPI/St Andrews)
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