A four-week institute for eighteen college and university teachers on American material culture, using nineteenth-century New York City as a case study.
The director, a professor at the Bard College Graduate Center for Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture (BGC), introduces higher education faculty members to central concepts in the history of material culture history, using New York City and its rich local and regional collections as a case study. Topics include the transition from craft to industry, space and place in the urban landscape, "high" and "low" culture, and approaches to the study of visual artifacts. Class, ethnic, and racial diversity are addressed throughout the program. Institute activities take place mornings and afternoons; each week includes seminars on the week's themes and readings, specialized sessions led by guest faculty, site visits to urban neighborhoods and important collections, workshops on digital methodologies for presenting historical artifacts, and time to work on teaching and research projects. The weekly segments are led by Catherine Whalen (BGC), Bernard Herman (American studies, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), Katherine Grier (history and museum studies, University of Delaware), and Joshua Brown (history, City University of New York Graduate Center). Guest lecturers include Kenneth Ames (BGC), Ivan Gaskell (BGC), Amelia Peck (Metropolitian Musem of Art), Edward S. Cooke, Jr. (art history, Yale University), Deborah Schmidt-Bach (New-York Historical Society), John Tchen (history, New York University), and Diane Wall (anthropology, City College-City University of New York). The participants read important general works on American material culture, including Jules Prown, "Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method" (1982); James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life (1996); Bernard Herman, Townhouse: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1780-1830 (2005); J. Ritchie Garrison, "Material Cultures," in A Companion to American Cultural History (2008); and Dell Upton, Another City: Urban Life and Urban Spaces in the New American Republic (2008). They also read a variety of specific studies of material culture in New York. Site visits include the New-York Historical Society, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and locations in Lower Manhattan, including the Museum of the Chinese in America and the African Burial Ground. The participants have access to the BGC's library, digital media laboratory, and residence facility.
Faculty: Kenneth L. Ames, Debra Schmidt Bach, Joshua Brown, Edward S. Cooke Jr., Cynthia Copeland, Katherine C. Grier, Bernard L. Herman, Kimon Keramidas, Amelia Peck, Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen, Diana di Zerega Wall, Catherine Whalen