Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Welcome to the fall 2012 iteration of Studies in American Material Culture.  This course blog will provide a nexus for information, conversation, and other miscellany of interest to our shared enterprise.  Students in previous terms have also shared their work here, so feel free to browse through the archive for examples of how your predecessors have thought about objects.  If you are one of those past participants, I hope you'll  stay subscribed and join the conversation where and when you see fit. 

This course will introduce you to the major themes, issues, and methods relevant to the study of material culture.  Although archeologists have long concerned themselves with the study of prehistoric objects, only within recent decades have scholars focused their attention on the evidentiary value of historic objects.  We will consider the variety of ways in which scholars from diverse fields have sought to infer meaning from things and then seek specifically to understand how historians have applied those ideas to their own work.

Additionally, we will work with Clare Sauro, Curator of the Drexel University Historic Costume Collection at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, to develop an exhibit of historic costume and textiles that will be mounted during spring 2013.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Friday, November 5, 2010

A New Nation of Goods

Please join us at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies on Tuesday, December 7, for a celebration of the publication of David Jaffee’s wonderful new book, A New Nation of Goods: The Material Culture of Early America, published this fall as part of the Early American Studies Series. David Jaffee teaches at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, where he is also Head of New Media Research.

A New Nation of Goods grounds its broad narrative of cultural change in case studies of artisans, consumers, and specific artifacts. Each chapter opens with an "object lesson" and weaves an object-based analysis together with the richness of individual lives. The path that such craftspeople and consumers took was not inevitable; on the contrary, as historian David Jaffee vividly demonstrates, it was strewn with alternative outcomes, such as decentralized production with specialized makers. The richly illustrated book offers a collective biography of the post-Revolutionary generation, gathering together the case studies of producers and consumers who embraced these changes, those who opposed them, or, most significantly, those who fashioned the myriad small changes that coalesced into a new Victorian cultural order that none of them had envisioned or entirely appreciated.

We will convene at the MCEAS in the Stephanie Grauman Wolf Room at 5:00 for an informal presentation and discussion with Dr. Jaffee, followed by a reception and book-signing. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event. Please RSVP to this message (or call 215-898-9251) by Friday, December 3.

McNeil Center for Early American Studies
University of Pennsylvania
3355 Woodland Walk (34th and Sansom Streets)
Philadelphia, PA 19104-4531

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Assignment 7 (30 points): Final Paper, due December 15

Your final assignment requires that you reflect on the broad sweep of our course experience. In a 3,750 to 5,000-word formal paper, you must revisit the process of writing your initial 50-word object caption and demonstrate how a fuller engagement with the object does/does not expand our ability to understand its history. More specifically, you must:

• Assess your initial 50-word First Person Museum caption and the process of writing it. As an object history, is it effective? Why, why not?

• Based on our readings and class discussions, propose a methodology for expanding your preliminary object study into a broader investigation that is unbridled by the challenges of exhibit development.

• Implement your proposed methodology by writing a second history of your object. This new history must reflect considerable use of primary and secondary sources and should constitute the bulk of this paper.

• Explain how your second history differs from your first. Word count aside, in what ways does the second history represent a different kind of intellectual product than the first? What are its strengths? What are its weaknesses?

• Finally, having written and reflected on your second object history, indicate how—if at all—you would revise your first object history. Include a revised 50-word history if applicable.

Recognizing that access to your First Person Museum object may be limited (if possible at all) you may choose to substitute a similar object as the focus of your second object history. In all cases, physically interacting with your object is a prerequisite for this assignment—you must be able to interact with the object.

Otherwise, this paper must also:

• Be double spaced;
• Be typed in 11-12 point font;
• Have 1-inch margins;
• Include page numbers;
• Include a title page or heading with your name, date, paper title, and course number;
• Include proper citations (Chicago style preferred) and a bibliography or works cited page;
• Be thoroughly proofread, edited, and must adhere to proper grammatical conventions;
• Be handed to me—I will not except email attachments.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars

Title: 9th Annual Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars
Location: Delaware
Date: 2010-11-24
Description: Objects in Revolt Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
Saturday, April 16, 2011 The Center for Material Culture
Studies at the University of Delaware invites submissions for
papers to be given at the Ninth Annual Material Culture
Symposium for Emerging Scholars. Focus: Objects order the
social body an ...
Contact: emerging.scholars@gmail.com
URL: www.udel.edu/materialculture/ess_call.html
Announcement ID: 179642