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.