Professors A.W. Eaton and Ivan Gaskell discuss material degradation in Göttingen (photo: Jane Whitehead)

Since 2014, I have been enjoying a two month-per-year fellowship each spring at the Advanced Study Instutute in Göttingen, Germany. To my great surprise, what had been a five-year appointment was made permanent this year.

The Kolleg comprises a small academic staff, led by the director, Martin van Gelderen, a select group of international senior fellows in a variety of humanities and social science disciplines, and a larger number of postdoctoral fellows from various parts of the globe distributed among three working groups, currently Enlightments, Human Rights, and Primate Cognition. In addition the Kolleg hosts distinguished visiting lecturers, and organizes symposia.

My colleague and long-term collaborator, A.W. Eaton, a professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois-Chicago, was a senior fellow at the Kolleg for the month of June. We shared an office so that we could work together on our project on the philosophy of the aging and degradation of materials. This long-term endeavor will allow us to contribute to the collaborative project on conservation science and the character of material things conducted by Bard Graduate Center; the Humboldt University, Berlin; and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Prof. Eaton and I made considerable progress in writing our preliminary paper. I was also able to prepare a number of lectures and symposium papers for fall events in North America and Europe.

As a member of the advisory board of the Zentrale Kustodie (university collections, museums, and gardens) of the Georg-August University, Göttingen, I participated in discussions concerning the development of the planned Forum Wissen as a research and teaching laboratory and exhibition venue for the university collections. I met twice with the president of the university. I also met regularly with the director of the Zentrale Kustodie, with the newly appointed professor of the materiality of knowledge, and with several collection curators.

The Lichtenberg-Kolleg has a warm and purposeful tone set by the director and staff for which my enthusiasm is unabated. I am most grateful for the wonderful opportunities given by this fellowship year by year. My association with the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, the Zentrale Kustodie, and with other parts of the university, has become a firm constituent of my scholarly identity.

—Ivan Gaskell, Professor of Cultural History and Museum Studies; Head of the Focus Project