Art historian Barbara M. Stafford will channel the philosophy of a liberal arts education on Thursday, when she presents her ongoing research on the interrelations of art and neuroscience.

Stafford, distinguished university visiting professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, will give a lecture entitled "Slow Looking: The Art and Neuroscience of Visual Attention."

Joachim Homann, curator of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, said that Stafford's studies revolve around understanding the role of visual perception—especially experiencing artwork—in the academic world.

"So much in our current media environment is about speeding up the processing of information," said Homann. "But the museum, of course, is dealing with media that requires a very different sensory experience."

Stafford's research makes a plea for the revaluation of what is called "slow looking," slowing down to fully appreciate certain facets of one's visual environment.

"She has pointed out that in the 20th century, in particular, scientists have not paid enough attention to the processing of visual information to the way we are informed by our visual environment," said Homann. "She realized in her research that seeing was much higher on the hierarchy of transmitting information."

"She—in her publications and research—has grown out of the study of the eighteenth-century visual culture of the Enlightenment, and in particular, the ways that artists and scientists interacted in the 18th century," said Homann. "She has developed her research into a larger investigation of the role that the artistic imagination and the perception of works of art play for cognition, as it is described in the neurosciences."

Stafford will make the case for bringing neuroscience and art into conversation.

"I will focus on the issue of selective attention to demonstrate how a sophisticated understanding of the workings of a wide range of images is indispensable to the neurosciences," wrote Stafford in an email to the Orient.

"And, in turn, that incorporating findings from the brain sciences has the potential to revivify humanistic studies," she added.

By sponsoring this lecture, the Museum of Art is attempting to appeal to a broader campus audience, but will also attempt to reinterpret its role as part of an academic community.

"With this talk, we are trying to pose the question of how the museum can understand its role on campus far beyond the confines of art history—beyond our charge to represent the best in art—because we are defining ourselves as a place of inquiring, requiring a particular kind of attention, and a particular way of conveying information, that may be much more relevant to many disciplines on campus that don't feel that art history plays a big role in their curriculum," said Homann.

"This talk is really about the foundation of what we are doing as a museum," he added.

Stafford's lecture is the second in a two-part series celebrating the bicentennial anniversary of James Bowdoin III's original donation of his private art collection to the College. The first of these two talks, "Private Collecting in the Age of Museums," was presented by Professor of Art History at Tufts University Andrew McClellan on April 12.

The lecture will take place next Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium.