2013 Curriculum Postings

Please post your curriculum materials here.

1) What do our students need to know to attain their intellectual and professional goals?
2) What are the critical methods they must acquire to help sustain a career?
3) What strategies and subjects do we teach that have stood the test of time?
3) How do we assess our programs?
4) How do we plan for a future in which change is layered on top of continuities?

To get beyond these generalities, we suggest that participants share case studies of their introductory courses, which tend to focus priorities when required as common experiences. Doing so would surface what has worked and not worked in ways that would be helpful to our peers and hopefully generate useful discussion. To facilitate sharing this information in advance of our meeting, we have created this page. Here we've put links to each of our programs websites that pertain to curricula and introductory courses. Please check to see if yours is correct and amend or add to it, and post your comments, whether general musings, responses to these questions, syllabi, sample assignments, etc. You can do so directly on the wiki page, or email us with your changes and additions, and we'll do it.

Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, University of Delaware
J. Ritchie Garrison

Master of Arts Program Curriculum (link)

Required introductory courses:

EAMC 601 Introduction to Decorative Arts in America to 1860 (Summer Institute)
Development of decorative arts, painting and architecture in America. Principles of connoisseurship and studies of American and imported objects of art. Collections of the Winterthur Museum.

EAMC 602 Material Life in America
Material Culture scholars work in a variety of disciplines—American studies, anthropology, art and architectural history, conservation, English, folklore, geography, history, sociology—and in the academy and various branches of the public humanities. Critical theories and questions differ by discipline, and practitioners typically do interdisciplinary work. While some scholars are more comfortable with field-based learning than others, the Winterthur Program trains students to work with objects as a form of evidence. Because the field is too large to apprehend in a single semester or course, we will concentrate on the following intellectual goals:
• Learning to ask meaningful questions
• Studying critical historiography
• Thinking about theory and method
We will focus our study on the Americas between 1600 and 1865 with an occasional foray into later eras if they help us understand particular themes. This time period represents the core strength of the object collections and facilitates critical thinking about objects and ideas. America was one node in a world economy, and we will situate it in the broader context of colonizing empires. Finally, I hope to refine your ability to work with scholarly texts, research with primary documents, and communicate via accessible writing in an era of new media.

EAMC 602 Material Life in America Course Outline 2012.docx. Note: To be revised for Fall 2013.


From my standpoint as Director of the Winterthur Program, the task involves:
1) teaching rich content that few students have learned in their undergraduate work, regardless of discipline;
2) getting them involved in empirical forms of interdisciplinary study via collections and field work;
3) encouraging them to interpret cultural behavior meaningfully and critically; and
4) learning to articulate their ideas lucidly and creatively whether through exhibits, texts, tours, or forms of ePublishing.

Museum Studies Program, University of Delaware
Kasey Grier

Certificate of Museum Studies Requirements (link)

Required introductory course:

MSST 600 Introduction to Museums
This course provides an introduction to the history of museums to the present day and examines selected current issues in museums management. This is a Core Course and is required.

NOTE: Also see undergraduate minor in Material Culture Studies (link)
and PhD Program in American Civilization in the Department of History (link)


Public Humanities Program, Brown University
Steven Lubar

Master's in Public Humanities Program Requirements (link)

Required introductory courses:

AMST 2650 Introduction to Public Humanities
This class, a foundational course for the MA in Public Humanities with preference given to American Studies graduate students, will address the theoretical bases of the public humanities, including topics of history and memory, museums and memorials, the roles of expertise and experience, community cultural development, and material culture.

AMST 1550 Methods in Public Humanities
A survey of the skills required for public humanities work. Presentations from local and national practitioners in a diverse range of public humanities topics: historic preservation, oral history, exhibition development, archival and curatorial skills, radio and television documentaries, public art, local history, and more.

NOTE: Also see American Studies Program (link)


University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ann Smart Martin

Material Culture Program Decription (link), Courses (link) and Undergraduate Certificate Description.pdf

Required core courses for Material Culture Certificate:

Art History 464/History 464/Design Studies 464 Dimensions of Material Culture
Approaches to the interdisciplinary study of the material world in order to analyze broader social and cultural issues. Guest speakers explore private and public objects and spaces from historic, ethnographic, and aesthetic perspectives. This course introduces the new and highly interdisciplinary field of material culture studies. It is intended for advanced undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in any professional endeavor that requires training in material culture, including careers in museums, galleries, historical societies, historic preservation organizations, and academic institutions. During the semester, students will have varied opportunities to contemplate "things" - the material world to which people give meaning and which, in turn, influences their lives. The course takes the perspective that what we make, see, inhabit, eat, acquire, cherish, and discard - all are important agents of communication and part of broad social and cultural contexts.

One of two Methods Courses:
Art History 563 Proseminar in Material Culture
Interdisciplinary study of the way people use objects and environments to express identities and relationships in households, communities, and larger social/economic systems
Design Studies 512 Material Culture Analysis: The Arts and the Consumer Society
This is a course concerned with things–with the artifacts that people make and use, and the meanings they hold in our lives. We explore the interaction between people and objects, considering the ways objects function as "players" or forces in our lives and serve as extensions of the self. We also examine the ways objects both shape and reflect the individuals and societies that make and use them, focusing on American culture. ­We consider a wide range of objects as cultural “evidence” –objects as diverse as furniture, tableware, clothing, cars, cooked foods, buildings, advertisements, and “junk” art;” and environments ranging from lawn decorations to­ supermarkets or cemeteries. The course begins with an exploration of the objects in our lives—how and why we value them, what we do with them, etc. We consider topics such as collecting, souvenirs, and gift-giving, and how we personalize identical mass-produced objects to make them our own, or turn them into art works. Later we delve deeply into the material culture of the Cold War (“Populuxe;” 1950's) era and look at the evolution of the American cemetery and “deathways” practices as a marker of changes in American culture. One of the primary goals of the class is that students hone their observational acuity and develop skill in interpretation, or material culture analysis. In order to be able to "read" or "de­code" objects for insights and evidence about their makers and their times, students are taught specific techniques and method­ol­o­gies with which to study artifacts. Over the course of the semester, they complete several different in-depth object-based analyse­s. There are typically five written analyses and another interview assignment over the course of the semester.


Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture
David Jaffee, Catherine Whalen and Ivan Gaskell

Master of Arts Program Curriculum (link)
PhD Program Curriculum (link)

Required introductory courses:

500-501 Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture I & II
This two-semester, team-taught course, required of all entering MA students,and PhD students who have not taken a course deemed comparable, traces major historical developments in the decorative and applied arts, landscape design, and material culture from antiquity to the present. Weekly lectures familiarize students with significant forms, materials, sites,styles, designers, and craftsmen, while introducing a variety of scholarly approaches to recovering meaning from material artifacts through a study of function, technology, iconography, and patronage. Small-group discussion seminars provide opportunities for closer analysis of selected objects, readings, and themes. At the end of the two-semester sequence, students will have a working visual and historical vocabulary of significant designed/manufactured objects and spaces from a wide range of civilizations and periods, and a better awareness of the areas they might pursue at the BGC.

BGC 500-501 Course Outline 2012-13.pdf. Note: To be revised for 2013-2014.

502 Approaches to Objects
This fall-term course is required for all entering MA students, and PhD students who have not taken a course deemed comparable. Reflecting the Bard Graduate Center’s multidisciplinary nature, this course equips students to make informed and viable choices in the scholarly use of objects as historical evidence. It introduces incoming students with diverse backgrounds to the puzzles and possibilities of interdisciplinary, object-based scholarship across a broad chronological and geographical scope, while investigating the taxonomic categories and associated institutions that drive the construction of knowledge about objects, including art, architecture, design, technology, science, print culture, and digital media. Drawing on the varied expertise of BGC faculty and guests, it also highlights a wide range of methodologies and texts drawn from art history, archaeology, history, anthropology, sociology, cultural geography, literary criticism, material culture, cultural studies, conservation, and philosophy. Presentations will be followed by break-out discussions led by the two course instructors. Course assignments will include individual written papers and presentations, as well as team projects.

History of Design, Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000, edited by Professor Pat Kirkham and Director Susan Weber, will be published by Yale University Press in November 2013 (link).
This text offers a history of decorative arts and design produced in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Islamic world, from 1400 to the present. The volume covers interiors, furniture, textiles and dress, glass, graphics, metalwork, ceramics, exhibitions, product design, landscape and garden design, and theater and film design. Divided into four chronological sections, each of which is subdivided geographically, the authors address the development of style, form, materials, and techniques, as well as issues of gender, race, patronage, cultural appropriation, continuity versus innovation, and high versus low culture.


History of Art, Yale University
Ned Cooke

BA Program Requirements (link)

Required introductory course:

BA Program requires at least one of the following: introductory survey of the European, American, Pre-Columbian, African, or Asian traditions.

PhD Program, Basic PhD Program Requirements.pdf

Required introductory course:

HSAR 501a Introduction to the Study of Art History


NOTE: Also see American Studies Program (link) and
Master's of Arts in Public Humanities (en route to an American Studies doctorate) (link)
Public Humanities Program Requirements (link) and Guide for Public Humanities Graduate Students.pdf

Required introductory courses:

2.1 Introduction to Public Humanities
This course, offered every Fall semester, introduces students to the theories of and contemporary issues in Public Humanities. Students complete readings in a wide array of fields within the Public Humanities; are connected with a range of practitioners; and work together to plan and implement a group project. During this semester, students who plan to pursue the Public Humanities concentration will consult with the seminar leader and the DGS to lay out a blueprint for completing the requirements, articulating a field or fields of concentration (eg: documentary work, museum studies, public history, etc.), identifying potential methods courses and mentors, and generating preliminary ideas about potential internships and projects. This blueprint is neither final nor binding, but is undertaken so early on in order to make the concentration as cohesive as possible for the student.

2.2 Methods Courses
The acting director of Public Humanities maintains a list of approved courses offered across departments at Yale that include a specialization in topics or methodologies directly related to Public Humanities, including memory, documentary film studies, ethnography, oral history, material culture, architecture, performance, art history, public history and so forth. Students must enroll in one class that has such a focus, or arrange for an independent study in a field or area approved by the DGS.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Bernie Herman

American Studies Program (link)
Digital Humanities (link)


General Comments

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