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Material Culture Studies

Administrative Unit:Art History
College/School: College of Letters & Science, School of Human Ecology
Minors and Certificates:Graduate/Professional Certificate

Core Faculty: Professors Martin (Art History), Schroeder (Anthropology; Associate Professors Allen (Scandinavian Studies), Andrzejewski (Art History), Aylward (Classics), Gilmore (Landscape Architecture/Folklore Studies), Nelson (Design Studies); Assistant Professors Li (Art History), Penick (Design Studies), Pruitt (Art History). Affiliate Faculty: Professors Bernstein (English), Buenger (Art History), Cahill (Art History), Cook (Music), Dale (Art History), Drewal (Art History), Enstad (History), Geiger (Art History), Kenoyer (Anthropology), Leary (Folklore Studies), Loeser (Art), Nyhart (History of Science), Phillips (Art History), Vaughn (Journalism and Mass Communication); Associate Professors Chopra (Art History), Dennis (Landscape Architecture), Sacaridiz (Art), Schatzberg (History of Science); Assistant Professor Shin (Design Studies)


Graduate students admitted by any academic department on campus may pursue a graduate certificate in material culture studies. The program is an interdisciplinary collaboration in the study of the material world and is jointly sponsored by the School of Human Ecology (Design Studies) and the College of Letters & Science (particularly the departments of Art History, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, Anthropology and History). Material culture encompasses the study of the creation, uses, meanings, and interpretations of the tangible products of human endeavor, most commonly objects, buildings, and landscapes. Special faculty interests include exhibition study and practice and vernacular art and architecture traditions. A new partner is the Buildings–Landscapes–Cultures Ph.D. Companion Program, in which graduate students have the option to take architecture courses at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

Graduate/Professional Certificate 

The primary focus of the certificate in material culture studies is to teach different methods and approaches for studying objects as evidence. Those in the program seek to understand how historical, cultural, behavioral, and social meanings can be revealed and studied through objects as well as how material things in turn shape human experience. Students learn ideas, methods, skills and practices that prepare them for careers in higher education, museums, historical societies, architecture and design, product design, advertising, historic preservation, and journalism. Another goal is to introduce a variety of professional career paths for those interested in the relationship between objects, history, and culture. Internships at local museums, historical societies, and other organizations as well as class field trips and activities allow students to bridge the academic and professional worlds.

For more information: Professor Ann Smart Martin, 205 Chazen Museum of Art, 800 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706; 608-263-5684; asmartin@wisc.edu, www.materialculture.wisc.edu