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What are historians doing in the laboratory? Looking back over six years of collaborative work, researchers of the Making and Knowing Project at Columbia University discuss their experience with hands-on reconstruction as a historical method. This work engages practical forms of knowledge-from pigment-making to metal casting-recorded in the BnF Ms. Fr.640, an anonymous French manuscript compiled in the later sixteenth century. Bodily encounters with materials and processes of the past offer insights into the material and mental worlds of early modern artists and artisans, and train the eye in the interpretation of historical objects. At the same time, reconstruction contributes to the interpretation of the text: it is only by attempting to implement the instructions of practical or recipe literature that these texts can be understood as vehicles of emergent knowledge that only fully manifests itself in the doing. Overall, our approach to reconstruction mirrors that of the anonymous author-practitioner, who explored a wide range of techniques through experimenting and writing.
author list (cited authors)
Taape, T., Smith, P. H., & Uchacz, T. H.