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External Project Proposals

External Project Proposals


The goals of the collaborative program are to enrich the breadth, scope, and reach of scientific studies in the arts and in the wider field of conservation in the US and abroad, by leveraging resources at the Art Institute and materials-related departments at Northwestern University.

The Center, funded by the Mellon Foundation, is the first of its kind to make its resources open to both internal and external users via merit-review proposals, within the framework of a double-pronged approach pursuing both objects-based and objects-inspired scientific research in the arts.


The external research program is intended to launch short- or long-term collaborative research projects focused on:

  • The scientific study of one object or a collection of objects with the aim of answering an important art-historical, technical, archaeological, or conservation question.
  • The broader, fundamental issues in the analysis and conservation of artifacts. Areas that may be at the center of such broader studies may include, but are not limited to:
    • Material identification, fabrication, and performance
    • Material aging and degradation
    • Restoration treatment development and testing
    • New analytical and sensor technology development

Proposals for joint research projects are expected to be conducted by scientific staff of the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts in collaboration with Northwestern faculty and the Art Institute of Chicago staff as well as the external applicant or group of applicants. The following circumstances apply to projects:

  • Proposed projects are expected to require significant expertise rather than simply access to facilities.
  • Access to research and facilities for external users is supported by the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts and based on a proposal submission process and evaluation by a review committee composed of both internal and external reviewers of international stature in the fields of conservation and conservation science, materials science, chemistry, art history, archaeology, environmental science, and/or computer science.
  • Applicants who may wish to make use of the Center directly to carry out their proposed projects may also apply for visiting research scholarships, in which case a travel grant to support only flight and limited lodging costs, as well as office space, access to the shared user facilities, and acquisition of the necessary materials and supplies, may be possible.
  • The Center is able to assist in the arrangement of visa applications for visiting research scholars who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. For more information on the requirements of the Northwestern J-1 visa process, visit the J-1 Exchange Visitors webpage of the Office of International Students and Scholars.


The deadlines for receipt of proposals will be April 15, 2024.

Required Application Materials

Applications should be submitted online and include:

  • A title page that includes the project title, an abstract, and the titles and signatures of all investigators.
  • A description of the proposed research, up to five pages in length, to include the background, proposed project and objectives, expected achievements and impact, as well as plans for disseminations of the results.
  • A two-page CV for the PI and for other key personnel.
  • All professional appointments as well as most representative publications relevant to the proposed work.
  • If the proposal includes specific artworks, monuments, archaeological, or other cultural heritage objects, then provide in the appendix a full list with images and descriptions of the objects, media, sizes and ownership information, if available.
  • If the proposal includes a request for a visiting scholarship, desired dates and length of stay, and requested funds should be defined.
  • If the proposed project involves radiation, chemical, and biological safety matters, please indicate clearly in the application.


Review and Selection Process

Applications will be reviewed by members of the Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts Peer Review Panel. Proposals recommended by the Peer Review Panel will be prioritized based on available expertise, specific instrumental needs, the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of projects, plans for dissemination of the results, and available time.

The selection will be based primarily on merit review criteria such as the scientific quality and originality of the proposed work. The applications should aim to increase the scholarly output (qualitatively and quantitatively) of scientific studies in the arts, optimize the use of the Center's facilities and expertise, foster lasting national and international scientific cooperation, and include elements of outreach to broader audiences across disciplinary boundaries.

The Center will not accept project proposals that have restrictions on the dissemination of the research results. All publications shall acknowledge support from the Mellon Foundation.


You may direct inquiries to

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Educator and Employer and invites applications from all qualified individuals. Applications from women and minorities are especially sought.

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