Research

Meadows Museum curator solves mystery of the Spanish masterworks

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UK7T2oJg5UM[/youtube]SMU’s Meadows Museum has concluded a lengthy investigation into the true identity and postwar provenance of two of the most famous paintings in its collection – masterworks that had been seized by the Nazis during World War II.

With the help of a series of serendipitous discoveries and six years of relentless detective work by curator Nicole Atzbach, the Museum now has definitive evidence to prove that Saint Justa and Saint Rufina by Spanish master Bartolomé Esteban Murillo had in fact been lawfully restituted to the Rothschild family following the war, long before their 1972 sale to the Museum.
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2016-10-28T16:18:25+00:00 October 24, 2016|News, Research|

Research: Rare inscription names mysterious Etruscan goddess

Greg Warden with Etruscan steleArchaeologists translating a very rare inscription have discovered the name of a goddess in a sacred text that is possibly the longest such Etruscan inscription ever discovered on stone.

The discovery indicates that Uni – a divinity of fertility and possibly a mother goddess at this particular place – may have been the titular deity worshipped at the sanctuary of Poggio Colla, a key settlement in Italy for the ancient Etruscan civilization.

“We can at this point affirm that this discovery is one of the most important Etruscan discoveries of the last few decades,” said SMU professor emeritus Gregory Warden. The University is the main sponsor of the archaeological dig.

“It’s a discovery that will provide not only valuable information about the nature of sacred practices at Poggio Colla, but also fundamental data for understanding the concepts and rituals of the Etruscans, as well as their writing and perhaps their language.”

Scientists discovered the ancient stone slab embedded as part of a temple wall at the Poggio Colla dig, where many other Etruscan objects have been found, including a ceramic fragment with the earliest birth scene in European art. That object reinforces the interpretation of a fertility cult at Poggio Colla, Warden said.

Poggia Colla steleNow Etruscan language experts are studying the 500-pound stele to translate the text. It’s very rare to identify the god or goddess worshipped at an Etruscan sanctuary.

“The location of its discovery – a place where prestigious offerings were made – and the possible presence in the inscription of the name of Uni, as well as the care of the drafting of the text, which brings to mind the work of a stone carver who faithfully followed a model transmitted by a careful and educated scribe, suggest that the document had a dedicatory character,” said Adriano Maggiani, formerly professor at the University of Venice and one of the scholars working to decipher the inscription.

“It is also possible that it expresses the laws of the sanctuary — a series of prescriptions related to ceremonies that would have taken place there, perhaps in connection with an altar or some other sacred space,” said Warden, co-director and principal investigator of the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project that made the discovery.

Warden said it will be easier to speak with more certainty once the archaeologists are able to completely reconstruct the text, which consists of as many as 120 characters or more.

While archaeologists understand how Etruscan grammar works, and know some of its words and alphabet, they expect to discover new words never seen before – particularly since this discovery is not a funerary text. Permanent Etruscan inscriptions are rare, as Etruscans typically used linen cloth books or wax tablets. The texts that have been preserved are quite short and are from graves.

Besides being possibly the longest Etruscan inscription on stone, it is also one of the three longest sacred texts to date. The sandstone slab, which dates to the 6th century BCE and is nearly four feet tall by more than two feet wide, was discovered in the final stages of two decades of digging at Mugello Valley, which is northeast of Florence in north central Italy.

Other objects unearthed in the past 20 years have shed light on Etruscan worship, beliefs, gifts to divinities, and discoveries related to the daily lives of elites and non-elites, including workshops, kilns, pottery and homes. The material helps document ritual activity from the 7th century to the 2nd century BCE.

— Margaret Allen

> Read the full story and see more images at SMUResearch.com

2016-09-22T14:42:03+00:00 September 12, 2016|News, Research|

SMU announces five 2016 Ford Research Fellows

SMU Ford Research Fellows, 2016

Meghan Ryan, Ali Beskok, Frederick Chang, Jodi Cooley-Sekula and Mark Chancey (with SMU Provost Steven Currall) were honored as SMU’s 2016 Ford Research Fellows during the Board of Trustees meeting in May. Photo: SMU/Hillsman S. Jackson

Five distinguished SMU professors received awards for their scholarship and support for their research when there were named 2016 Ford Research Fellows during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 5.

This year’s recipients are Ali Beskok, Mechanical Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; Mark Chancey, Religious Studies, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; Frederick Chang, Computer Science and Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering; Jodi Cooley-Sekula, Physics, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Meghan Ryan, Dedman School of Law.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help SMU retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

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2016-06-10T14:37:26+00:00 June 3, 2016|For the Record, News, Research|

Student achievement in the spotlight during SMU Engaged Learning Week, Feb. 8-12, 2016

SMU Engaged Learning Symposium program - photo by Clayton T. SmithSMU’s Engaged Learning Week expands its schedule for 2016 and features a growing undergraduate presence at the University’s annual Research Day as well as presentations from McNair Scholars and Summer Research Fellows.

This year’s event takes place Feb. 8-12 and will help students learn more about expanding their education outside the classroom, from undergraduate research and community service to professional internships and creative projects.

The week begins Monday, Feb. 8 with presentations by graduating Engaged Learning Fellows in Community Service and Internships at 12:30 p.m., followed by a Creative Projects panel at 3 p.m., both in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, Engaged Learning, Big iDeas and Clinton Global Initiative University students host an open house and luncheon 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Scholars’ Den, G11 Clements Hall. The event is open to the entire University community, and current EL Fellows and Big iDeas teams will discuss their projects and programs with visitors.

SMU Engaged Learning logo

On Research Day, Wednesday, Feb. 10 in the Hughes-Trigg Ballrooms, undergraduate researchers from the McNair Scholars and Summer Research Fellows will show their work at 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Engaged Learning Fellows in Undergraduate Research will present at 11:45 a.m.

Thursday, Feb. 11 will see presentations from the Lyle School of Engineering’s Senior Design Teams from 1:30-4 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Forum.

The week wraps up Friday, Feb. 12 with Undergraduate Research panels at 9 a.m. and from noon-2:30 p.m., with a buffet lunch at 11:30 a.m., followed by presentations from Big iDeas teams at 12:45 p.m.

Find a full schedule at the SMU Engaged Learning Week homepage

2016-02-09T17:03:43+00:00 February 8, 2016|Calendar Highlights, News, Research|

SMU NCAR publishes white paper on measuring strength, effectiveness of culturally specific arts organizations

SMU’s National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) has released a white paper that examines the distinguishing characteristics of arts organizations that primarily serve Asian American, African American, and Hispanic/Latino communities.

Andrea Louie

Andrea Louie

The study is designed to provide insights, based on measurable data, about the operating contexts and unique challenges that these organizations face. Co-authored with Andrea Louie, executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance, and Zenetta Drew, executive director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the goal of the white paper is to provide a more nuanced understanding of culturally specific organizations and to help establish a more equitable measure of their performance.

> Read the NCAR white paper: “Does ‘Strong and Effective’ Look Different for Culturally Specific Arts Organizations?”

Zenetta Drew

Zenetta Drew

Inspired by the DeVos Institute’s 2015 publication “Diversity in the Arts: The Past, Present and Future of African American and Latino Museums, Dance Companies, and Theater Companies,” NCAR’s paper responds to two key aspects of the DeVos Institute’s findings: first, that arts organizations of color are in general smaller and “far less secure” than their mainstream counterparts; and second, that funders might see greater results by providing larger grants to a smaller number of “effective” organizations, rather than continuing to fund a larger number of organizations through smaller grants.

Based on its research, NCAR found that culturally specific arts organizations are not disproportionately smaller than their mainstream peers. Taking into account their sector and age, the data shows that they are generally younger and therefore at a different stage in their evolution than mainstream organizations.

NCAR argues that the funding model proposed by DeVos would be detrimental to the cultural ecology, as it could effectively reduce the overall number of smaller organizations and therefore diminish the level of diversity, dynamism, and innovation in the field. NCAR calls for a deeper understanding of culturally specific organizations before significantly altering or abandoning their funding.

NCAR Report“We recognize that culturally specific organizations have particular characteristics that should be understood for what they are, neither good nor bad nor a sign of ineffectiveness but simply a different starting point,” said Zannie Voss, NCAR director. “With this study, we want to reframe how we assess the performance of these organizations by identifying the differences in their operating contexts and by establishing a more precise framework of what expected performance should look like, rooted in evidence-based research.”

— Victoria Winkelman

> Read the full story from SMU News

2016-01-20T11:24:53+00:00 January 20, 2016|News, Research|
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