2018 Meeting at the National Museum of American History

Consortium for American Material Culture

12th Annual Meeting
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC
May 31-June 1, 2018


Fath Davis Ruffins, Curator, Division of Home and Community Life
Bill Yeingst, Division Chair
National Museum of American History (NMAH), Smithsonian Institution


The primary participants will be CAMC members and the curators of the various exhibitions (for a couple of hours and a meal.) In addition, I plan to invite the new curators hired at the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of African American History & Culture, and some faculty from nearby institutions who are deeply interested in material culture who may be interested in joining the CAMC group.

CAMC members (to date):

Catherine Whalen, Bard Graduate Center

Meredith Linn, Bard Graduate Center

Cindy Falk, Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York at Oneonta

Kasey Grier, American Civilization Program and Museum Studies, University of Delaware

Ann Smart Martin, Art History and Material Culture Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Changing National Narratives

Various scholars and curators have written about the difficulties and possibilities of changing national narratives to make them more inclusive and more accurate. Three Smithsonian museums have produced new exhibitions in the last couple of years that take up national narratives in some new ways. This conference will provide time to visit these new exhibitions at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). After viewing each of the new exhibitions on your own, we will have time to dialogue with the specific exhibition curators about their goals, challenges, obstacles, and successes in these projects.

Tentative Schedule

Thursday May 31st


The conference will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the S.C. Johnson Center on the first floor of the National Museum of American History (NMAH). We will have a series of introductions for about an hour. Everyone will then view two new exhibitions on your own: Many Voices, One Nation and American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith. We will then meet with the various curators for a conversation and then have lunch. (Note: Nancy Davis was the project director of Many Voices and although she has retired, I am hoping that she will be able to attend the meeting.)


After lunch we will walk or shuttle down to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and view two new exhibitions: Americans and Nation to Nation: Treaties between the United States and American Indian Nations. We will have a conversation (with food treats) with the curators of those two exhibitions. We will end the day about 5:00 p.m.


Around 7:00 p.m., we will have a dinner, perhaps at a local historic site. The site has not yet been confirmed. In order to have dinner, we may have to request that people send in checks in advance for the dinner, however, the details on this are being worked out now.

Friday, June 1st


At 9:00 a.m. we will reconvene at the S.C. Johnson Center on the first floor of NMAH. About 9:30, we will go over to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and spend the rest of the morning there, on your own. For everyone who does not have a Smithsonian badge, I will need to get you a timed ticket. Therefore, it will be very, very important to send me back a RSVP confirming that you want access to the museum that morning.


At about noon, we will depart NMAAHC and return to NMAH for lunch and conversations with the curators. We will spend the rest of the afternoon in NMAH, discussing what we have seen. The conference will officially end about 4:00 p.m.

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