Five College Consortium

American Material Culture

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UMass Amherst
This course explores methods for studying material culture and assesses historical writings focusing on objects as historical evidence. The collections, buildings and grounds of Historic Deerfield provide a laboratory for first-hand examination of objects, the built environment and the landscape in order to test a variety of approaches for analyzing artifacts and to develop the skills and knowledge needed to interpret the meanings of material productions in their historical contexts. Analysis of high chests, dwelling houses, bed hangings,
petticoats, chocolate pots, splint baskets, gravestones and many other artifacts of everyday life will serve as a starting point for exploring these objects' materials, the ideas governing their designs and processes by which they were made, the makers who produced them and the recipients who used them and passed them down to the present. Readings selected from a growing body of literature drawing on material culture sources will enable participants to evaluate trends in material culture historiography, to gain familiarity with leading figures who have helped shape the field and to assess material culture studies' potential for enriching our understandings of the past.
Open to Doctoral & Masters students only. Material culture studies examine relationships between people and objects. Tangible artifacts like furniture, clothing, ceramics, tools, and buildings give insight into communities' identities, aspirations, and struggles. This course approaches American histories through objects, and considers how interdisciplinary methodologies can reveal alternative understandings of the past. The course traces changing theories and practices of interpretation, preservation, curation, and display; shifting conceptions of 'heritage' among diverse peoples; And ethical challenges posed by certain items held in museums. It will concentrate especially on Indigenous, Euro-American, and African American material culture studies and their intersections. Students will develop skills for producing original research projects, and gain exposure to historical resources and professional practices through visits to campus and regional collections.
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Permission is required for interchange registration during the add/drop period only.
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Course Sections

American Material Culture
Sect # Credits Instructor(s) Instructor Email Meeting Times Location
01 4.0 Christine DeLucia TH 2:30PM 5:00PM