Conducting academic research about a specific work of art in often obscure international archives requires methodology, time, patience, and the occasional bit of luck. It also demands knowledge as to where to look and experience as to how to retrieve archival minutiae and translate them into meaningful research. Each detail – however small and seemingly irrelevant – helps build the bigger picture.
Primary source research requires academic integrity, in-depth analysis and objectivity.
It frequently involves the cross-examination of written correspondence between artists, dealers, collectors, museum staff, transporters and insurers; gallery ledgers; past exhibition catalogues; newspaper and journal reviews; and library registers. Whilst much research is still conducted in person, the growing trend amongst international archives to digitalise their material for conservation and accessibility purposes is an asset of immeasurable proportions.
With nearly 20 years of experience, the systematic piecing together of the past in order to unearth long-forgotten events, stories and secrets still fascinates me. Collectively, such discoveries open up the art historical debate and help drive it forward.