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View of a fountain in front of the West Building

Research Initiatives

Center 43

The Center supports long-term and short-term research initiatives designed to contribute to the wider scholarly community. Deans’ Research Projects are long-term projects directed by a dean. Short-term events or initiatives promote collaboration and innovation.

Deans’ Research Projects

The Early History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635

The Early History of the Accademia di San Luca was conceived, under the direction of associate dean Peter M. Lukehart, as a project in two parts: a volume of interpretive essays concerning the establishment of one of the first artists’ academies in late 16th-century Italy and a research database of newly rediscovered coeval notarial documents that support current and future study of the Accademia and its members. Based largely upon these important documents, the essays published in The Accademia Seminars (2009) serve as the first institutional history of the Accademia and cover issues from the creation of new statutes to the siting of the church of Santi Luca e Martina in the Roman Forum, and from the formulation of the educational program of the academy to the roles of the artists and amatori who participated in it. The open-access database of documents, The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590–1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma, complements the essays and encourages new research on the Accademia. Maps and guidebooks represented as annotated digital objects contextualize the primary material with nuanced historical information. Faceted searching, bibliographies, and carousels of images provide myriad ways to customize and refine research. The project’s web pages average 732 users and around 2,000 page views per month, with the average user spending around two minutes on each page.

In October 2022, Peter M. Lukehart presented a paper titled “Towards a History of the Accademia del Dissegno de’Pittori, Scultori, ed Architetti” at an international conference hosted by the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. His contribution concerned the teaching role of the academy during the 17th century and its evolution from an institution devoted largely to painting and sculpture to one that gave new pride of place to the study of architecture.

In January 2023, the project team presented virtually at The Winter School: “Tran(s)mission”: How Multimediality Shapes Interdisciplinary Research in the Field of Italian and Visual Culture Studies. This workshop organized by the Università Roma Tre in collaboration with University College London focused on digital humanities and digital art history projects.

In March 2023, digital research officer Matthew J. Westerby and postdoctoral research associate Fulvia Zaninelli presented a paper at the Renaissance Society of America annual meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It explored the temporality of antiquities tourism in Rome during the first half of the 17th century through the lens of Giovanni Alto/Grosso (1577–1660), a member of the Swiss guard and also a popular tour guide for foreign visitors to Rome. This cowritten paper questioned assumptions about the seasonality of tourism and collecting in Rome, presenting data from Alto/Grosso’s four-volume guest book (StammbuchMS Chigi.G.IV-111-114).

Peter M. Lukehart, Associate Dean for Fellowships and Fellows Programs
Matthew J. Westerby, Digital Research Officer
Fulvia Zaninelli, Postdoctoral Research Associate

Francesco Villamena, Portrait of Ioannes Altus (Johann Alten), of the Swiss Guard, standing by the Quirinal and pointing out the antiquities of Rome (detail), 1623, etching; first state of two, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Phyllis Massar, 2011, 2012.136.919

History of Early American Landscape Design

Essential maintenance of long-term digital projects continues with the History of Early American Landscape Design (HEALD). HEALD launched an updated website in 2021 with many contributions from the Center’s research team and stakeholders at the National Gallery of Art. The project is an inquiry into the language of early American landscape aesthetics and garden design in the colonial and national periods. In March 2023, a review of HEALD was published in Reviews in Digital Humanities (vol. 4, no. 3), written by Ann E. Komara. Komara notes that “HEALD is a model for robust, richly illustrated research-driven sites. Its relevance for landscape history and design is certain, but the collection of often inaccessible images and archival materials will appeal to anyone interested in the culture and designed landscapes of this era.” HEALD averages 4,600 users and over 7,200 page views per month, with an average time of around four minutes per page.

Matthew J. Westerby, Digital Research Officer

Index of American Design

In January 2023, ten undergraduate students and recent college graduates participating in the Association of Research Institutes in Art History (ARIAH) Careers in Art History Internships came to the Center virtually. They explored Center research projects and learned about the myriad career pathways of Center staff. Meeting with National Gallery colleagues in the archives, modern prints and drawings, and digital experience, the interns formed research questions focused on the Index of American Design and developed Pinterest boards and potential blog posts based on their findings, which will inform a future content strategy for the Index of American Design. We appreciate the powerful insights and perspectives shared by interns Florence Chen, Nat Contreras, Efeh Ibojie, Morgan Jones, Persia Liu, Samantha Oleschuk, Nour Rayess, Stacie Rosario, Maya Strohmeier, and Elizabeth Xiong.

Steven Nelson, Dean
Angélica Becerra, Postdoctoral Research Associate
Matthew J. Westerby, Digital Research Officer

Majel G. Claflin, Child's Grave with Wooden Cross - Bottle Decorations, c. 1937, watercolor, colored pencil, graphite, and heightening on paperboard, Index of American Design, 1943.8.6915

Short-Term Research Initiatives

Mapping Our Museum: GIS@NationalGallery

Designed as a series of extended datathon-style events, Mapping Our Museum: GIS@NationalGallery encouraged innovation and collaboration across the National Gallery of Art around geospatial data and mapping, with 29 staff participants from 14 departments. The expertise and energy contributing to this interdepartmental teamwork was possible thanks to Ellen Prokop and Elisabeth Narkin, colleagues in the National Gallery of Art Library, and to academic-year National Gallery interns, including Corinna Annalisa Scala. At the culminating event on April 26, 2023, six teams presented maps and visualization developed from a research question or collection of art objects, with around 75 colleagues in attendance.

Matthew J. Westerby, Digital Research Officer

Matthew J. Westerby introduces the teamwork launch for Mapping Our Museum: GIS@NationalGallery, December 2022