Stephen Bradley and Kathy Marmor, media artists, collaborated with Special Collections at UMBC to curate the exhibition, The Glass Knife, that was installed at the Albin O.Kuhn Gallery, May-July 2016. The exhibition reflected insight into Keith Porter’s scientificcareer and incorporates materials from his biographical and research archives held by UMBC’s Special Collections.

Keith Porter was one of the first scientists to study whole cells with the electron microscope. His innovative use of electron microscopy allowed him to produce the first image of an intact cell. Porter was the Wilson Elkins Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at UMBC from 1984 to 1988, who bequeathed his archives to the university.  

The Glass Knife employs elements from Porter’s archive to illuminate and reveal the logic of his scientific inquiry.  Structured scaffolding in the room-sized installation represents cell organelles that Porter imaged. Within the layers of scaffolding the artists, juxtaposing archival material as well as art created specifically by the artists for this exhibit.    Juxtaposition of documentation and interpretation gives voice to the question, “What role does aesthetics play in scientific experimentation?”

Central to this installation, Porter’s research displays his almost uncanny ability to look at static electron micrographs of cells and “see” what the cell was doing.  Bradley and Marmor contemplate that Porter’s optical devices represent to the man himself --- his identify resides within the archive. The Glass Knife seeks to reveal to the viewers the power of Porter’s micro landscapes that define us as living organisms. 

 The Glass Knife of the exhibition title refers to the instrument used to prepare the sample for examination under the electron microscope.

Reference: SeeingScience: