A collaboration between CRASSH and the Early Modern Studies Institute (EMSI) at the University of Southern California / Huntington Library supported by CRASSH, EMSI, and a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant.

The past several decades have witnessed an explosion of interest in the study of visual and material culture. Visual studies has challenged existing methodologies and disciplinary structures, while developing new methods to analyse processes of looking and being viewed. Likewise, material-culture studies has placed ‘things’ centre-stage in subjects from which they were previously absent and fashioned sophisticated means for researching objects in society and culture. The two fields have much in common: capacious interdisciplinarity, the rupturing of the canon, nontraditional objects of study, and a bespoke methodological toolkit. Yet they are rarely brought together in meaningful dialogue, their practitioners remain dispersed, and the benefits of their alignment remain unrealised. Our first intellectual aim is to develop a framework in which to realise this potential.

Visual and material culture changed rapidly in the early modern period thanks to dramatic social and economic upheaval, radical technological advances, the expansion of global networks of exchange, and significant shifts in philosophical and political thinking. The programme will support advanced research into how, why, and to what effect these changes occurred. By looking back to a period when the assumed categories of modern social order, intellectual disciplines and habits of thought are not yet firmly established, we will be able to see more clearly our contemporary stake in understanding the cultural world through what we see and what we consume.

Seeing Things will provide an interdisciplinary research environment in which innovative scholarship may be undertaken, in which methodologies will be debated and reconfigured, and in which the parameters of a new, integrated field may be staked out.  In particular, it will encourage collaboration between scholars at the participating institutions, visiting fellows, and researchers at different career stages.


Programme Director

Dr Alexander Marr

Cambridge participants

Dr Mary Laven
Professor Alexandra Walsham
Dr Melissa Calaresu
Dr Ulinka Rublack
Dr Jason Scott-Warren
Dr Sachiko Kusukawa
Professor Simon Schaffer
Dr Richard Serjeantson
Dr Vicky Avery
Katy Barrett
Sophie Waring

University of Southern California/ Huntington Library EMSI participants

Professor Peter Mancall
Professor Deborah Harkness
Professor Jacob Soll
Dr Daniela Bleichmar
Dr Sean Roberts
Dr Jessica Keating
Professor Bruce Smith
Keith Pluymers
Ellen Dooley
Sean Nelson


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk