This course introduces students to the major themes, issues, and methods relevant to the study of material culture. While archeologists have long concerned themselves with the study of prehistoric objects, only within recent decades have scholars focused their attention on objects as historical evidence. We will consider the variety of ways in which scholars from diverse fields have sought to understand meaning from things and then seek specifically to understand how historians have applied those ideas to their own work.
Students enrolled in the spring 2019 Studies in American Material Culture will have the opportunity to apply their skills in a real curatorial world capacity. We are partnered with the Fox Historic Costume Collection at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. In light of this cooperative project, we will be particularly concerned this semester with the history of clothing and the history Philadelphia’s retail environment between 1840-1940, as well as with issues bearing on the practice of public history, specifically within museums and other exhibitionary contexts.