Reading Blog 1

Week 5  Sep.26

This week our reading focused on the pattern and the meaning in the material culture. The pattern may come to the first priority to do the research on objects, such as form, function and data. Because it is the basis for students of folk material culture to describe objects accurately and get involved with them directly. After all, objects themselves have particularly rich data waiting for us to learn from and get formal sequence of artifacts. Also, we need to pay attention to the meanings of the objects, not only the physical environment, but the mentality of people in that certain period of time.


Henry Glassie gives us some instructions about the pattern in the material folk culture in details. Not introducing the pattern in the first place, he just defines the “folk culture” and “folk” as his beginning. For example, “Anything–customs and material as well as oral traditions is folk culture” (01, Material culture history) What’s more, “the folk thing should be traditional and nonpopular” (06, Material culture history) And the same way is used in Kenneth Ames’s Meaning in Artifacts. So, we can see that the definition of an object is very significant. Because this is the first pattern that we need to know if it is the certain one which is worth for our endeavors before we eagerly look into the sequence of an artifact. As Henry Glassie said, “A guitar manufactured in a Kalamazoo factory is not folk even when played by a bluesman from the Mississippi Delta.” (12, Material culture history) After the identification of an object, then to move inward to have a better focus on the item itself can set up a firmer connection with it rather than to search outward. Compared with Jules David Prown’s Mind in Matter, this paper is like the preface of former and is further detailed in the section of relationship between human activities and objects.


With regard to the second reading, Kenneth Ames’ Meaning in Artifacts shows us the rigorous demonstration and scrupulous observation which serve as the cornerstone of his credibility of works. “Artifacts mirror a society’s value.” (02, Hall Furnishings in Victorian America) just as he said, through the description of the item, the deep connection among people and objects could be deducted in a proper way. Take the mirror of the hallstand as an example. Kenneth Ames stirs the readers’ illusions of how people used the mirror to fix their appearance and as a sign of wealth. Therefore, we not only know people’s physical behaviors, but some mental activities. Through the artifacts, the history becomes a little bit clear in front of us. So, to make a brief scan of the organization of his paper, the writer has a great combination of human performance and objects.



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