Issue #213  3/5/2015
Yale Selects Paul Messier as Director of New Conservation Lab
Paul Messier
Paul Messier

The Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at Yale University has appointed Paul Messier as director of the Lens Media Lab, which is a new initiative.

The Lens Media Laboratory (LML), a new research facility that will apply scientific principles to the characterization and conservation of photographs and other lens-based media, has been created as part of the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). An anonymous donor has provided funding for the endowed directorship and laboratory start-up.

"This extraordinary gift will catalyze the development of new methods for scholars to classify, preserve, and interpret photographs and other lens media, both physical and digital," said Stefan Simon, director of the IPCH. "In Paul Messier, we have successfully attracted one of the foremost experts in the world, whose track record of working across a diverse range of constituencies and disciplines--from museums to individual collectors and humanities to the sciences--will be a tremendous asset to this endeavor."

In its first years, the LML will focus on 20th-century photographic prints. Messier will bring to Yale his personal collection of photographic paper from the 20th century, a unique resource the LML aims to augment with further acquisitions. Considered the largest of its kind in the world, the reference collection provides an objective baseline for understanding the physical and chemical composition of photographs and interpreting artistic practices and intent. This baseline has already begun to impact the detection of forgeries and misattributions.

"Fakes are not simply a problem for the art market but provoke much broader scholarly inquiry," Messier said. "Issues of attribution, artistic working practices, stylistic development, and spheres of artistic influence are vital scholarly questions. My goal for the LML will be to develop tools to address these questions using data derived from the physical object."

Messier added, "Leadership of the LML presents an important new opportunity, but I continue to be avidly committed to growing and sustaining my private conservation practice. Changes are on the way, but the new venture at Yale has been years in the making, giving staff and me time to insure that clients and projects will not be impacted. Conservation treatment and communications will continue to be managed by senior staff and I will remain available for work at the studio and for consulting especially for the institutions and private clients with whom I have worked so closely for many years."