RESEARCH CLUSTER: The Making and Knowing Project: From the Workshop to the Laboratory

Pamela Smith, Seth Low Professor of History, Director of the Center for Science and Society

Naomi Rosenkranz, Project Manager

Columbia University-Chemical Heritage Foundation Scholars collaborating on the Making and Knowing Project:

Sophie Pitman (2017-2020)
Tillmann Taape (2017-2020)
Tianna Uchacz (2016 – 2019)
Donna Bilak (2014 – 2017)
Joel Klein (2014 – 2017)
Jenny Boulboullé (2014 – 2016)

making and knowing Spring 2015 Coral making and knowing lab seminars spring 2016 making and knowing flower molds 2015 making and knowing WGM2016 samples making and knowing paleography group 2016 making and knowing WGM Demo 2016 making-and-knowing-manuscript-bnfmsfr640 making and knowing paleography 2016 manuscript
Historians have long acknowledged the foundational importance of craft knowledge to the development of modern science.  In recent years, historians of science have investigated the relationship of craft practice to various learned communities in early modern Europe, such as humanities scholars, medical practitioners, (al)chemists, and advocates of the “new experimental philosophy.” Simultaneously, historians of science, technology, material culture, and book history have become increasingly interested in the genre of early modern recipes, books of secrets, and how-to manuals that shed light on a remarkable transition in European society, when previously illiterate craftspeople began writing down their working procedures.  This research cluster contributes to both these strands of scholarship in the history of science by investigating the descriptions of workshop practice contained in an unpublished sixteenth-century manuscript. A diverse range of humanities students and scholars working alongside scientists in both a digital workspace and a laboratory reconstruct the technical procedures contained in this historical source.  Researchers from Columbia and other institutions (Bard Graduate College, University of Amsterdam, Glasgow University and the V&A Museum, London) in history, art history, art and technical conservation, chemistry, and digital humanities collaborate to produce an open-source digital critical edition of this valuable sixteenth-century manuscript.  Each year a laboratory course (see syllabus, Assignments One and Two) is offered to humanities, social science, and science students that combines historical research on fifteenth and sixteenth-century sources with hands-on work in the laboratory. In addition to the open-access research products and the curriculum development included in this project, this cluster also brings together natural scientists, a variety of scholars in the humanities, and the broader public by means of a speaker series on the reconstruction of crucial scientific experiments.  A collective research group on embodied cognition and skill launched in 2015 that includes anthropologists of skill, historians of art, members of improvisational research in jazz studies, English literature, psychologists, neuroscientists working on cognition, and scholars in dance and movement studies in order to identify promising areas of cross fertilization in the study of embodied cognition.

The Making and Knowing Project gratefully acknowledges the support of:

  • The National Science Foundation, Grant #1430843 The Role of Tacit Knowledge in Experimentation (2014-17)
  • The Maurice I. Parisier Foundation
  • The Florence Gould Foundation
  • Howard and Natalie Shawn


  • TBA



@The Center of Science and Society at Columbia University 2016
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