The Research and Academic Program (RAP) at the Clark began to take its current shape in the late 1990s, but its roots hark back to the earliest days of the museum. A commitment to academic research and scholarly study has been an integral part of the Clark’s mission since its founding in 1950, with the institution’s original charter directly stipulating “facilities for study and research in the fine arts.” The Clark Library and the Graduate Program in the History of Art were founded over the ensuing decades, laying the groundwork for an even stronger institutional commitment to research and scholarship in the visual arts. In the 1990s, the Clark’s Board of Trustees authorized the development of a fellowship program for visiting scholars as well as a series of conferences and symposia. These programs expanded and coalesced into the Research and Academic Program we know today.
First under the direction of John Onians for nearly two years, and later Michael Ann Holly for fourteen years, RAP has expanded its purview to include collaborations and research initiatives in Williamstown and around the globe, with leadership in art historical scholarship continuing under newly appointed director, Darby English. The annual fellowship program has hosted nearly 300 scholars since its founding. RAP’s rich programming of conferences, symposia, and colloquia has brought nearly 750 scholars, curators, and educators to the Clark and beyond. In support of these programs, RAP has received generous support from a broad range of foundations and institutions. The Manton Foundation established an endowment in support of the program in 2007. The program’s directorship was endowed by the Starr Foundation in 2008. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Getty Foundation have both provided integral support for RAP’s international events and imaginative programming.
In recent years, RAP has collaborated with a growing roster of partner institutions, including the Getty Research Institute, the Council of Library and Information Resources, and the Institut national d’histoire d’art (INHA), as well as research universities across Eastern and Central Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Programs closer to home continue this international spirit, with scholars from five continents having come through the fellowship program on the Clark’s campus in Williamstown. Thanks to generous support and collaborative efforts, RAP’s commitment to intellectual engagement in the visual arts both at home and abroad will continue to thrive in the years to come.