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Material Witness.jpg

Material Witness

Material Witness is an interdisciplinary training programme for the interrogation of physical objects in the digital age.

Material Witness

Material Witness Blog

Various dates (January - June 2019)

Material Witness is an interdisciplinary training programme for the interrogation of physical objects in the digital age.

The prevalence of digital images both online and in exhibition and museum spaces has resulted in the dematerialised object becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Interest in physical artefacts has intensified as a result, both within the academy and across the public sphere. Material Witness acknowledges the centrality of objects across the humanities and offers innovative and cutting-edge training to emerging scholars in a broad range of theoretical and practical methods for interpreting physical objects. A central theme of Material Witness is the mutually enriching relationship between the digital artefact and the ‘real thing’.

Material Witness will provide training for PhD students in techniques and methods for examining the material world. It aims to encourage researchers who come from different disciplines and backgrounds and who study diverse time periods, pre-modern and modern, to share ideas about the relationships between materials and meaning. The programme also promotes collaboration across (and beyond) the spectrum of humanities disciplines through the study of materiality.

The programme will take the form of day-long (11am-5pm) events for 12-15 participants which will take place during the Spring and Summer terms, with a concluding event at the Art Workers’ Guild designed to showcase skills learnt during the programme.


Material Witness will comprise six workshops:

1.    Monday 28 January 2019 - Material Text - ***FULLY BOOKED***

A visit to the collections at Lambeth Palace Library organised by Teresa Lane, PhD student, The Courtauld Institute of Art.

Lambeth Palace, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7JU.

The first event in #MaterialWitness 2019 will take place at Lambeth Palace Library, and will introduce participants to some of the problems and opportunities encountered in the examination and conservation of medieval manuscripts and their digital facsimiles. Participants will go behind the scenes in the conservation studio and will learn about the different approaches and techniques involved in preserving fragile books.

***Please note, that some areas at Lambeth Palace will be inaccessible for wheelchair users or those with mobility issues.***

11.00: Arrive/coffee

11.30-13.00: Session 1 - Introduction to the collection of manuscripts at Lambeth Palace Library. A talk by one of the librarians covering the history of the collection and its highlights. This will be followed by a supervised handling session in the reading room.

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-16.00: Session 2 - Visit to the Conservation Studio at Lambeth Palace. Participants will learn about the types of interventions that take place there and the range of analytical techniques that can be deployed in the examination of parchment books.


2.    Friday 1 March 2019 Material Sound  | The Horniman Museum, 100 London Rd, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ

The Horniman Museum is home to a world-class collection of musical instruments. As part of the #MaterialWitness 2019 programme, participants will be led through an object-handling session and instrument-making workshop with sound artist Sam Underwood.

Join musician, sound artist and musical instrument designer Sam Underwood at The Horniman Museum. Taking inspiration from its world-class musical collection, the day will include a curator tour, object handling session and instrument making workshop.

11.00                    Arrival & coffee (not provided)

11.15                    Introduction

11.30                    Musical instrument design as an active area of development

12:30                    Lunch (provided)

13:30 – 14:15    Musical instrument handling session with the learning team

14:30 – 15:15    Curator tour of the Music Gallery with Mimi and Margaret

15.15                    Musical instrument making workshop

16.45                    Q&A / clean up

17:00                    End


3.    Friday 8 March 2019 - Conceptual Art | Tate Britain Archives, Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG (Entrance on lower ground floor of Tate Britain, near the Manton Entrance in Atterbury Street)

***FULLY BOOKED*** - to join the waiting list complete the form below

Led by Dr Christian Berger (Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow at The Courtauld Institute of Art), this session in the #MaterialWitness 2019 programme takes the form of a day-long think tank addressing the materiality of conceptual art. Making use of archival material and current exhibitions, art historian Dr Christian Berger will lead participants through a critical discussion of materiality and the contemporary art object.

A thinktank on the materiality of conceptual art, using selected material from Tate Britain's archive.

Led by Dr Christian Berger, Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

10.45                    Arrival

11.00                    Introduction to collections

11.30                Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-79, focusing on the work of Barbara Reise, Nigel Greenwood Gallery, Jack Wendler Gallery and Artist Placement Group 

14:00              End      

NB There is the possibility that Andrew Wilson, Curator of Conceptual Art in Britain might join the workshop – in that case lunch will be provided and the day will finish closer to 4pm.


4.    Friday 22 March 2019 – Material Photography | The Courtauld Institute, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London, WC1X 9EW

***FULLY BOOKED*** - to join the waiting list complete the form below

Digital photographs are ubiquitous in modern humanities research. This session in the #MaterialWitness 2019 programme will encourage participants to interrogate physical objects through the creation of chemigrams – a type of photographic image made without a camera, using everyday objects. It will take the form of a hands-on workshop led by curator and multidisciplinary artist Melanie King, whose work explores materiality in relation to traditional printmaking processes.

11.00 Arrival & Coffee

11.15  Introduction, Discussion & Demonstration

12.15 Demonstration and workshop: Lumen Print Photograms

13.15  Demonstration and workshop: Chemigrams with flour & water

13.45  Lunch (provided)

14.45 Demonstration and workshop: Chemigrams with honey, toothpaste, sun cream, caffenol spray - using stencils and masking tape

16.45 Evaluation and clean up

17.00 – End


5.    Friday 3 May 2019 – Examine, Ferment and Distil - Using a Sketchbook | The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE

***FULLY BOOKED*** - to join the waiting list complete the form below

In this practical workshop, artist Adrian Dutton will share key skills, he has been teaching for many years, in the use of sketchbooks as powerful tools in the examination of material, information and ideas.

Artists employ sketch books as mobile laboratories, in which they examine, ferment and distil their observations and ideas. In this session of the #MaterialWitness 2019 programme, participants will spend a day, guided by artist and teacher Adrian Dutton, drawing in the Wellcome Trust Collection. Participants will each find an object of enquiry in the collection and through a range of techniques, seek to deepen their experience of the object. We will conclude with an exercise in connecting information, and it is intended that by the end of the day, participants will be able to utilise a sketchbook as part of their ongoing work in the humanities.

11.00 Arrival

11.15  Introduction, Examples, materials, approaches & Discussion.

12.15 Workshop: exploring the collection, choosing an object, beginning to draw

13.15  Reflection, discussing the first experience of drawing

13.45 Lunch

14.45 Returning to the object, drawing and text

15.45 Making connections, moving from one object to another

16.45 Evaluation and clean up

17.00 End


6.    NEW DATE ADDED: Friday 17 May 2019 | Canterbury Cathedral, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury CT1 2EH

Our investigations into the materiality of objects in the digital age continue. Come and join us on Friday 17 May in the library and archives at Canterbury Cathedral where we will be exploring manuscripts and printed books in the cathedral collection under the expert guidance of Dr David Rundle (University of Kent) and Cressida Williams (Canterbury Cathedral). David is a Renaissance historian and palaeographer whose research focuses upon the role of books within the late medieval and early modern culture of Western Europe. Cressida is Head of Archives and Library at Canterbury Cathedral and leads the team which cares for the manuscript and book collection.

The day will begin at 11am and finish around 4pm, and will include lunch and a tour of the Cathedral led by Dr Alixe Bovey, Head of Research at The Courtauld Institute of Art, and the founder of Material Witness. 

Full details of the programme will be published after the Easter break and will be limited to 12 participants. In the meantime take a look at the blog posts by participants of previous workshops https://material-witness.co.uk//


Friday 7 June 2019 – Closing Event at The Art Workers’ Guild

Valedictory reception 4-8pm at the Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London, WC1N 3AT.

This final event will include a key-note speaker followed by presentations from members of the Art Workers’ Guild on their crafts and opportunities for hands-on participation. There will be the opportunity to reflect on the programme and to discuss ideas for the future.


Notes for Participants

  • Places for the workshops are limited to 12 participants per session so booking is essential.

  • Participants are encouraged to attend multiple workshops, although this is not essential.

The sessions are open to


Terms and conditions

  • By registering below, you are requesting a place on this training programme or selected sessions that form part of the programme. A member of the CHASE team or the workshop leader will contact you in due course to confirm that a place has been allocated to you.

  • If you are allocated a place but can no longer attend, please email enquiries@chase.ac.uk so that your place can be reallocated. CHASE training is free to attend and events are often oversubscribed with a waiting list. Failure to notify us of non-attendance in good time (ideally 5 days prior to the workshop/programme) means your place cannot be reallocated and may result in your access to future CHASE training being restricted.


Please register here

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Material Witness Blogposts (from previous years)