Seed Grant Awards

Seed grant awards from prior years

The following projects were awarded funds through a competitive, peer-reviewed program, with the goal of encouraging faculty to develop collaborative projects that stimulate the advancement of new ideas that can build Binghamton University's expertise toward a national reputation in the broad area of material and visual worlds.

For the 2022-2023 academic year, the following seed grant was awarded:

The D.I.Y. Bing Punk Rock Archive

Jennifer Stoever, English; and Claire Kovacs, Binghamton University Art Museum

The Binghamton D.I.Y. Punk Archive is a University-community collaboration dedicated to collecting and digitally preserving the rich history of punk rock music, art, style in the Southern Tier between 1975 to the present. It's an online gathering of special momentos, keepsakes, papers, objects, songs, photos, and stories that a group of people with shared history brings together collectively to tell their own stories, in a way that is free, open, accessible to each other and future generations. In particular, it amplifies the stories, experiences, style, and sound of women who helped create punk in the Southern Tier, in their own words — and encourages all visitors to directly engage with the history of punk. Brianna Motunrayo Olaiya is the community archivist for the online site, supported in her work by Jennifer Stoever (English), Claire Kovacs (Art Museum), John Lee (stacks manager, Library), Miya Carey (history), Stephen McKee (art history MA student) and Jess Norkus '22, and everyone who joins in the conversations, contributes to the archive, and shares it with friends and family. The archive — growing and changing in real time — can be accessed at

For the 2019-2020 academic year, the following seed grant was awarded:

The Abstract Body: Medicine, Science, and the Knowability of Human Experience

Matthew Wolf-Meyer, anthropology; and Fa-Ti Fan, history

The human body has long been subject to the abstractions of scientific and medical knowledge production, moving from the materiality of the body to the visual, textual, and eventually, quantitative, representation of organs, processes, and illnesses. Scholars have long focused on this movement from the materiality of the body to its visual and textual representations. The present moment, in which the human body is increasingly subject to computer-aided abstraction, has been attended to less thoroughly. The Abstract Body is a two-day workshop bringing together a variety of scholars interested in a wide variety of mechanisms of bodily abstraction. Our conversation will be situated in the overlapping theoretical models of "blackboxing" and reification. This workshop aims to catalyze the potential of these theoretical models in reconceptualizing the human body as a site of scientific and medical abstraction. The workshop will consist of pre-circulated papers, which will be discussed by an assigned discussant, opening a conversation for assembled participants. Our hope is to collect the papers in an edited volume or special issue of a journal. 

For the 2018-2019 academic year, the following seed grant was awarded: 

Conceptualizing the Body Within Regimes of Reification

Matthew Wolf-Meyer, anthropology; and Fa-ti Fan, history

The human body has long been subject to the abstractions of scientific and medical knowledge production, moving from the materiality of the body to the visual, and eventually, quantitative, representation of organs, processes, and illnesses. Scholars have long focused on this movement from the materiality of the body to its visual and textual representations – but the present moment, in which the human body is increasingly subject to computer-aided abstraction, has been attended to less thoroughly. We propose to host a two-day workshop to bring together a variety of scholars interested in the mechanisms of bodily abstraction, and to situate our conversation around the overlapping theoretical models of 'blackboxing' and reification. This workshop aims to produce an edited volume to draw visibility to the Material and Visual Worlds TAE and to catalyze the potential of these theoretical models in reconceptualizing the human body as a site of scientific and medical abstraction.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded: 

The Binghamton Historical Soundwalk Project

Jennifer Stoever, English; Monteith McCollum, cinema; and Ron Miles, mechanical rngineering (in an advisory capacity)

The Binghamton Historical Soundwalk (BHSP) is a research project that turns a one-mile stretch of Downtown Binghamton into a live sound art installation. Archivally-based, artistically- realized, and grounded in sound studies methodologies, the BHSP explores sound's potential to intervene in the production of social difference via listening, and to seeks to understand the process by which differential listening practices develop and create fractured and/or parallel histories and experiences of allegedly shared urban spaces such as Binghamton. Participants will come away from the walk with a better understanding of the city's complex history and layered built environment, the sense of sound as a material and historical modality, the importance of sonic perception as a way of locating one's self in place, space, and time, and the role of listening in creating—and potentially fracturing—communities. TAE Seed Grant support will enable the completion of the final phase of this multi-year project.

The Binghamton Nuvolone: "Restoring" an Object in Six or More Parts

Neil Christian Pages, German studies and comparative literature; Karen-edis Barzman, art history; Jonathan Karp, Judaic studies and history; and Diane Butler, Binghamton University Art Museum

This interdisciplinary project focuses on a seventeenth-century canvas by the Milanese Baroque painter Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (1609-1702), held in the Binghamton University Art Museum permanent collection. Representing Saint Benedict with two cherubs, the canvas was at some point cut into six sections, each incision barely missing key details in the composition. We will pursue various avenues of inquiry in order to understand the painting as an object that generates multiple narratives. We are interested in telling the story of the painting, which was donated to the museum by the family of its most recent owner, Max Eisenstein, a successful Viennese businessman who fled Austria in late 1938 and settled in Binghamton. The interstitial spaces of the work – understood both materially and metaphorically – now offer an opportunity to think about the Binghamton Nuvolone, not only in terms of its production, but also in relation to the Shoah and its reverberations in postwar American life, the story of the Jews in Vienna of the Habsburg Empire, and the object's status as an Old Master painting valued by collectors in the interwar years. Our project seeks to embed the work in a number of discourses and narratives in order to recontexualize it and to explore the question of what it might mean to "restore" this work for and into the future.

Bridging science and technology with an interactive digital platform

Hilary Becker, classical and Near Eastern studies; Gökhan Ersan, art and design; Valerie Imbruce, Division of Research; Louis Piper, physics; Mark D. Poliks, systems science and industrial engineering; and Pamela Smart, art history

Materials Matter is an interdisciplinary undergraduate course developed collaboratively under the auspices of the Material and Visual Worlds TAE. Conceived as a course that will fulfill Gen Ed Laboratory Science and Aesthetics requirements, it is designed to enrich STEM training for science and humanities majors alike. It will analyze materials—glass, ceramics, and paint— addressing their elemental structure, processes of manufacture, and aspects of the historical imperatives that have compelled their formulation, just as they have mitigated against alternative possibilities. A central element of the course is our development of a graphic design that will compellingly communicate the science of the materials under study, and locate them within the horizon of human endeavor. The systematic visualization of properties and processes will be integrated into all teaching materials, including an app that will enable students to perform a range of operations consistent with the Laboratory requirement. Seed Grant funds will enable the acquisition of tablets and programming expertise to facilitate the creation of prototypes that we will use experimentally to test our concept and its pedagogical efficacy, thereby supporting our joint scholarly research into science pedagogy.

For the 2016-2017 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded: 

The Deep History of Pottery in the American South

Matthew Sanger, anthropology; Carl Lipo, environmental studies and anthropology; and Junghyun Cho, mechanical engineering

Pottery is a critical technology utilized by people around the world. Despite its ubiquity, archaeologists struggle to understand the social place of pottery in past societies. Rather than being a static tool or blank medium, this project assumes a theoretical stance that views pottery as a dynamic engagement between people and their physical and social surroundings. To study the changing place of pottery, this project will study the material properties of pottery from the American Southeast. The physical characteristics of pottery, including porosity, heat transfer, and tensile strength, will be investigated using cutting-edge instrumentation already present on the Binghamton campus. These data will provide insights into how pottery changed or remained the same over time and across space. With more than 5000 years of pottery production, the American Southeast offers an opportunity to relate a deep history of ceramics to changing social, ecological, political, and demographic conditions and to interrogate the shifting importance of pottery in the lives of past peoples.

The Elements Behind the Material and Visual World: An Exhibition Prototype

Gokhan Ersan, art and design; Mark Poliks, systems science and industrial engineering; and Amy S. Robbins, anthropology

This project draws Gokhan Ersan's undergraduate design students into the challenge of communicating scientific knowledge and technological processes in the context of a museum exhibit. Students, in their course work, will develop graphic and spatial design proposals for Corning Museum exhibits, in consultation with Mark Poliks, and with Corning Museum of Glass Curator of Science and Technology, Marvin Bolt. Investigators will use the output of this class project to develop a major proposal to fund the development of an exhibit for the University Art Museum, in partnership with the Corning Museum of Glass, that will present glass from the perspectives of its elemental structure, and its technological and artistic innovation.

Experimental Frequencies

Monteith McCollum, cinema; and Patrick Madden, computer science

"Experimental Frequencies" brings together faculty and students from Cinema and Computer Sciences to explore new ideas for an interactive cinema. What if instead of turning off your iPhones, you were asked to connect to a Wi-Fi signal, streaming images or sounds that transformed the way the audience interpreted the theater space? Instead of being a distraction, the project proposes taking advantage of the presence of this technology to add to the work of art. Imagine a multitude of little screens lighting up or different sounds triggered in collaboration with the projected film, turning the cinema into an interactive environment. Through this project, researchers will work to find a technologically elegant way to shape the theatrical experience anew.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded: 

Authority and Materiality in the Vernacular Songbook: From the Medieval Lyric to the Petrarchist Madrigal

Olivia Holmes, English; and Paul Schleuse, music

Also supported by a grant from the SUNY Conversations in the Disciplines program for "Intercampus Scholarly Conferences."

In recent decades, scholars of medieval and early-modern texts have increasingly rejected as object of study the coherent, corrected text of the modern critical edition in favor of the instability and singularity of individual manuscripts and prints. Academic interest has turned particularly to the construction of authorial identity in late medieval and early-modern lyric anthologies and music books through scribal and authorial choices about the visual disposition and ordering of individual poems and songs. Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374) stands as a key figure in the development of the single-author poetry book, exhibiting in his autobiographical Canzoniere an acute concern with the minutia of the material production of texts and a high degree of authorial self-consciousness in the arrangement of his poems into a coherent narrative, which set a precedent for centuries to come. Petrarchism became the dominant idiom of European poetry in subsequent centuries, as well as the primary thematic register of the sixteenth-century madrigal, a musical genre in which composers also increasingly asserted authorial control over the appearance of their songs in printed music books.

We are planning a conference for May 1-2, 2015 to bring together musicologists and literary and book historians with an interest in the shared material sources of Italian poetry and music, from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, focusing especially on Petrarch and his legacy. This conference and resultant publication will unite specialists who approach some of the same material objects with diverse methodologies and from different disciplinary perspectives. The evolving reconceptualization of lyric authority also depends and impinges on other important aspects of books, including their distribution and commodification, as well as their status as luxury items and recreational objects, and the meanings attached to reading or singing from them. Contributions will address what it means rhetorically, socio-historically, and ontologically when song becomes poetry book, and poetry—through the music book—becomes sound again. Conference highlights will include a public concert of Petrarch's poetry in musical settings by the early music ensemble Blue Heron. 

Visual and Material Negotiations Around Borders – A Case Study of Sovereignty and Provincial Identity at the Edges of Imperial Rule

Karen edis-Barzman, art history; Kent Schull, history; Richard Lee, sociology; and Mark Blumler, geography

This project brings together BU faculty and staff in Art History, History, Sociology, and Geography to work with scholars in Europe and Turkey on early modern maps, topographic drawings, and documents in historical state archives. Their collaborative efforts will address 1) how empires negotiated the limits of sovereignty along shared borders, and 2) how subject-populations at the edges of empire negotiated identity. Given the research interests of current participants, the project will focus initially on the Ottoman Empire and borders it shared with the territorial state of Venice in present-day Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro, 16th–18th centuries. The purpose is to place visual representation into the larger context of imperial archives and to draw on those archives to reconstruct the shared space of borderlands in their material form (town, fortress, settlement, hinterland). Foregrounding the material and the visual as important objects of interrogation, the focus then is on 1) the role of images in the management of the imperial state, and 2) the object-world and spatial practices of a lost frontier.

For the 2013-2014 academic year, the following seed grants were awarded: 

The Materiality and Visuality of the Pre-Modern Book: A Case Study

Marilynn Desmond, English; Tina Chronopoulos, classical and Medieval studies; and Ed Shepherd, University Libraries 

The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies is about to embark on a three-year initiative on the History of the Pre-modern Book. The first stage of this project requires that we undertake a series of workshops during spring 2014 for CEMERS faculty and graduate students from different departments (history, art history, music, literature and languages). We propose to purchase a fragment of a fifteenth-century Latin manuscript of Thomas of Chobham's Summa de penitentia. This material artifact would be added to the Special Collections of Bartle Library. The fragment is a portion of a popular Latin text on penance originally composed in the twelfth century by an English theologian, Thomas of Chobham. During spring semester 2014, this fragment will be the focus of an interdisciplinary workshop aimed at uncovering all the empirical information that this artifact might disclose to the modern scholar. We envision publishing a journal article, collaboratively authored, on this fragment. We also plan to host an invited talk on the study of manuscripts during the spring semester.

Hidden Images: Revealing the Three-Dimensionality of Film Emulsion

Tomonari Nishikawa, cinema; and Peter Huang, mechanical engineering

Digital technology has expanded the way artists express their ideas, and in cinema most filmmakers today choose digital video as their medium mostly for cost and distribution reasons. Recently, Fujifilm announced its cessation of the production of most motion picture filmstrips, and many film labs have closed down in the last decade. Thus, now is a crucial time to examine the dying film medium with its many artistic values still left unexplored. Through this project, we will create a live-processed film/video installation to re-examine the 3D film material and its uniqueness by combining engineering and artistic filmmaking, an angle that is pursued by very few. The core concept of this project is to reveal the 3D quality of the film medium, an aspect often ignored when we are watching a movie, by using digital technologies and computer programming to create pseudo-3D images. The project exhibit will stimulate the audience's visual sense when the filmstrip's 3D aspect is brought to the forefront of its attention, and the audience will understand more about the film medium.