Yale scholars honored for distinction in the arts


Two Yale scholars will receive 2018 Awards for Distinction by the College Arts Association (CAA), the preeminent international leadership organization in the visual arts.

The CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation will be given to Paul Messier (r) of Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). The award recognizes outstanding contributions by a person enhancing understanding of art through the application of knowledge and experience in art conservation.

Edward S. Cooke, Jr., (l) the Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, wins the 2018 Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award, which is presented for distinction by an individual who has been actively engaged in teaching art history for most of his or her career.

Messier is a photograph conservator at Yale and has a long-standing private practice in Boston. Through a generous gift from the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, he is the founder and Pritzker Director of the Lens Media Lab at IPCH. Established in 2015, the lab is the only one of its kind dedicated to meeting the challenge of preserving and interpreting the material history of the photographic print.

Messier receives the award for his significant contributions to our understanding of the technical history of photography. Assembled over decades, the Lens Media Lab now preserves the largest reference collection of historic photographic paper in the world, providing a forensic baseline for future scholarship.

The collection now supports research and teaching at Yale focused on the twentieth century photographic print, and the development of new tools to characterize photographs and interpret artistic intent, setting new expectations for rigorous examination in both museums and private collections. 

“Having bridged the field of scientific research into photographic practice, Paul Messier has now begun to change the way Yale undergraduates learn to think about a photograph,” said Mary Miller, Senior Director at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. “Yale is fortunate to call Paul Messier one of its own. “ 

Messier has published widely, holds two patents covering innovative techniques for the characterization of cultural materials, served elected terms to the Board of Directors of the American Institute for Conservation, and recently completed a multiyear Mellon-funded initiative to establish a department of photograph conservation at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In Fall 2017, he taught the Material History of 20th Century Photography alongside Monica Bravo of the Department of the History of Art, inspiring Yale students to think about photography in entirely new ways.

Edward (Ned) Cooke is an expert on American material culture and decorative arts. His Making Furniture in Pre-industrial America: The Social Economy of Newtown and Woodbury, Connecticut explores the artisanal world of colonial and early national America, while some of his work on modern craft has historicized and explicated more recent forms of production. 

He is the founding co-editor of The Journal of Modern Craft, guest editor of a special issue of American Art focusing upon craft, and co-curator and publication author of six different exhibitions.

At Yale, Cooke teaches lecture courses on American material culture from the seventeenth century to the present as well as an introductory course on global decorative arts, offering seminars on a variety of topics including material culture theory, vernacular architecture, the American interior, American furniture, and modern craft.

He served as the Chair of the Department of the History of Art from 2000 to 2006 and from 2012 to 2016. Since his arrival at Yale in 1992, he served as Director of the Yale Center for the Study of American Art and Material Culture.

Cooke is currently completing a book on the self-invention of Boston in the period 1680 to 1720 and, in 2018 will open a new “maker’s space” laboratory at Yale’s West Campus. The lab will enable the close study of objects – the cultivation of material intelligence as a necessary aspect of scholarship – where students can engage actively with the past and in the present, to examine the origins of cultural difference (and conflict) in production and process.

“As Ned’s students and colleagues know, this award is appropriate recognition for the most committed, imaginative and thoughtful of teachers,” said Tim Barringer, Chair and Paul Mellon Professor, Department of the History of Art.

Cooke has brought generations of Yale students into contact with the world of making and the richness of the material object. His former students have gone on to positions of distinction in universities and museums across, and beyond, the USA.

With these two awards, a focus on material history methodologies, increasingly central to the study of the visual arts, is being recognized in scholarship and teaching at Yale. Cooke and Messier will receive the awards during convocation at the CAA Annual  Conference on February 21 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Contact: Jon Atherton