Scientific Research

Scientific Research

The vision of The Corning Museum of Glass is “to be the international leader in transforming the world’s understanding of the art, history and science of glass.” For more than 50 years, Dr. Robert H. Brill led the Museum’s globally recognized program of research in the history of glass as understood through science. That legacy continues today with the Museum’s ongoing investment in glass science across its many programs.

The Innovation Galleries present major discoveries, inventors, and ideas in glass science.
The Conservation Department researches glass in the Museum’s collection to better understand how it was made and how it deteriorates. They regularly consult with scientists, conservators, historians, and artists. The Education Department provides programs on the science and properties of glass for learners of all ages.

We also support scientific research through the Rakow Grant for Glass Research and the David Whitehouse Residency for Scholars. Visit the webpages of those programs for information on past recipients and instructions for application.

Dr. Robert H. Brill

Dr. Robert H. Brill (1929–2021) served as Research Scientist at the Corning Museum of Glass from 1960 until his retirement from the Museum in 2008. Dr. Brill also served as the Museum’s director from 1972–1975, the critical years of recovery from the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood. During his tenure at the Museum, he collaborated with archaeologists, curators, glass makers, scientists, conservators, and many other researchers to build a program aimed at understanding “whatever we could about ancient glass through the use of scientific methods,” as he recalled in 1999.

The resulting research, spanning more than six decades, was shared through more than 190 publications on the archaeology, chemistry, and conservation of glass. Among the highlights are the three volume Chemical Analysis of Early Glasses. The Publications Department and Corning Museum are pleased to offer Volumes 1 and 2 (1999) as open access searchable pdf downloads.

Other highlights of Dr. Brill’s illustrious and influential life in glass science include the Glassmakers of Herat documentary, filmed in 1977 (available on YouTube). As a founding member of the American Institute for Conservation (and the Technical Committee on the Archaeometry of Glass (TC-17) of the International Commission on Glass), he was an important figure in the early history of the field of conservation in the US. His research on the deterioration of glass is still foundational for how we care for our glass today. 

Colleagues and friends shared remembrances of Dr. Brill’s impact on the glass world following his death in 2021.

The Brill Scientific Research Collection

Dr. Brill collected tens of thousands of pieces of glass and glass-related materials from around the world for the purposes of scientific analysis during his decades of work. Brill’s research resulted in many significant discoveries about the origins of glass, raw materials, location of workshops, and glass deterioration, from Bronze Age Egypt to Han Dynasty China to Colonial America. Still, he was only able to analyze and publish a small fraction of the material collected. The Corning Museum is developing plans to make the Brill Scientific Research Collection accessible to qualified researchers.

Please direct inquiries about the Brill Scientific Research Collection to [email protected].


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