History of Art and Architecture

Call for proposals: Consuming Nature workshop

Call for proposals

Consuming Nature: Landscapes through the lens of the Anthropocene

May 1-5, 2017

A collection-based workshop for Pitt faculty and graduate students
Presented as part of Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Co-leaders: Alex Taylor and Isabelle Chartier, History of Art and Architecture
  • 10 participants will receive $2,000 each to participate in the week-long workshop and carry their work forward (as described below).

  • Faculty who participate will also be eligible to apply for a paid course release to develop a new course or redesign an existing course.

Application deadline: February 24, 2017

About the workshop

From the products we buy to the leisure activities we pursue, whether as material or image, we all consume the natural world on a daily basis. The idea of the anthropocene, founded on the visible trace of humanity in geological terms, helps sharpen attention to the presence of human influence across the widest range of landscapes. This week-long workshop will draw upon Pittsburgh’s museums and collections to explore how such sources define and delimit the category of nature itself, and reckon the landscape as a resource to be expended.

Workshop participants will engage with visual and material cultures from the landscape tradition, as well as locations whose physical form have been shaped by shifting human attitudes towards nature and its management. The workshop will seek to connect the industrial and agricultural histories of Western Pennsylvania described in these collections with the global economies in which they are entangled, tracing the webs of connection that tie local landscapes to planetary systems, and historical material to contemporary challenges.

Participants will go behind the scenes to interact with museum professionals in Pittsburgh and discuss their collections. An online collaborative tool has been developed to facilitate interaction before, during, and after the term of the workshop. Participants are expected to then carry their work forward as a research or teaching initiative of some kind. For examples of projects from the previous workshop, see http://www.raceingthemuseum.com. Projects might take many forms but we are particularly interested in:

  • Research that makes use of objects in local collections and that could be developed into articles, websites, or digital exhibitions;

  • Projects that draw on local collections to engage communities in issues connected to ecology, conservation and the environment; and/or

  • New or revised course syllabi that integrate objects from local collections into the content and structure of the course.

This is the second workshop presented by Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh, a consortium of local museums, galleries and archives working together to share information and expertise, and foster collaboration in research, teaching, and public engagement. The theme connects with Strange Times: Earth in the Age of the Human series presented across the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh from January until April 2017, and the ICOM NATHIST conference The Anthropocene: Natural History Museums in the Age of Humanity at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in October 2017. It is hoped that workshop participants will engage with these events before and after the workshop.

How to apply

Applications are invited from Pitt faculty and graduate students engaged in the theme of the workshop, from any discipline and any department, who are interested in objects, collections, and museums.

Email applications to Alex Taylor alex.taylor@pitt.edu as a single Word document. Include a current CV and a short statement (400-800 words) explaining why you would like to participate, what you hope to gain, and what project or projects you can envisage carrying forward from the workshop (with the understanding, of course, that your initial ideas will probably transform as you explore the collections and work with other participants). Graduate students: please also include a brief letter from your faculty supervisor or director of graduate studies confirming their support of your application. Faculty: please also include a brief letter from your department chair confirming her/his support of your application.

Applications due February 24, 2017.