Caltech Home > Home > About the Program > Materialities, Texts and Images
open search form


The first joint Caltech-Huntington research program, known as Materialities, Texts and Images (MTI), began in 2013. Organized by Caltech's John Brewer (Eli and Edythe Broad Professor of History and Literature, Emeritus) and The Huntington's Steve Hindle (W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research), MTI focused on investigating the roles of a wide range of material things—books, artwork, and scientific instruments, as well as natural resources such as rocks and plants—in human culture. Its aim was twofold: to investigate the historical relations between the material world and different forms of cultural representation, and to examine the strategies by which knowledge and taste have been and are constituted.

MTI built upon two of the most important and innovative trends in the humanities and social sciences over the last 20 years: an increased attention to the importance of "things" and their "thingness" (or materiality) in relation to the human, and an acute awareness of the processes (some bearing on the material, others not) by which man's relations to the world are shaped. The MTI program's scope was intentionally broad and not limited to a specific scholarly discipline or period of study. It considered a huge range of forms and genres of things, from twentieth-century novels to seventeenth-century scientific experiments.

Over the course of the three-year program, each of the six MTI Fellows organized a workshop to gather together distinguished scholars from different institutions to present their research on a designated topic or concern. These one-day workshops promoted interdisciplinary, multi-media, and trans-historical conversations about the central role that materiality plays in a diverse range of human experiences.

MTI Workshops (2013-2016)

The Political, and Unpolitical, Lives of Things
May 27, 2016 | Alexandre Dubé

The Art of Decay
May 2, 2016 | Cora Gilroy-Ware

Looking at Language: the Materialized World
May 15, 2015 | Susan Barbour

Getting Perspective
April 24, 2015 | Julie Park

Knowledge and the Cultivation of Tastes in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
June 2, 2014 | Alexander Wragge-Morley

Building Stories: Intersections of Writing and Architecture
May 2, 2014 | Stefanie Sobelle