We come to know the world not only through words and texts but also through visual images anchored in real spaces. Pictures, diagrams, illuminations, architectural constructions, museum displays, statues, and scientific visualizations reflect, as well as crucially establish, doctrines and ways of knowing that may also exist in discursive form. Just as our work investigates relations between visual media and non-visual formations, it also concentrates on relations across different visual media and on the ways that visual objects become irreducible to language or text. Since art history as a discipline has given such prominence to these issues, this constellation possesses a strong historiographical focus. In addition, because it frequently centers on the correlation of visual media with verbal and theoretical objects, work in the digital humanities often unfolds within this constellation.
Therefore, since its establishment, the Visual Knowledge constellation has pursued a wide range of concrete initiatives that answer to the above interests. The group has met regularly to discuss readings by such authors as Bruno Latour, Lorraine Daston, and Peter Galison; has workshopped dissertation chapters of graduate students working in the constellation; established a full bibliography on the theme of Visual Knowledge to which graduate students can look in formulating their comprehensive exams; saw a graduate student in HAA collaborate with a graduate student from the Information school to create a digital exhibition on botany dioramas and scientific knowledge at the Carnegie Museum of Art; organized two major exhibitions in the University Art Gallery, which turned on collaboration between faculty members and graduate students (these were Configuring Disciplines, an exhibition organized by Drew Armstrong and Josh Ellenbogen, which grew out of a course they co-taught, and Data [after]Lives, co-curated by Josh Ellenbogen, Alison Langmead, and CMU faculty member Richard Pell; has fostered graduate student scholarship that has appeared in peer-reviewed venues ranging from History of Photography to the Canadian Art Review; the constellation has also generated significant collaborative scholarship between faculty members, as in the essay “Forms of Equivalence” by Josh Ellenbogen and Alison Langmead in Technology and Culture in 2020; has explored interactions between the famous Morelli method of art connoisseurship and computer vision, in the Morelli Machine project pursued by Alison Langmead and Christopher Nygren; and has also offered a number of graduate seminars that centrally contended with themes of Visual Knowledge.
Finally, the same impulse that drives forward the Visual Knowledge constellation has also led the department to create a curriculum in digital humanities, completion of which leads to a certificate in digital humanities.