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Material Culture Caucus

The Material Culture Caucus is an interest-based gathering of scholars within the American Studies Association (ASA), the professional organization for American Studies in the United States. Formed in 1994, the caucus seeks to promote the place of material culture studies both within the larger context of American history and culture, and the specific activities of the ASA.

The Material Culture Caucus sponsors a growing range of activities designed to create an ongoing forum for members of the material culture community. We work to address and promote the common interests of scholars and students through a variety of initiatives, which presently include:

  • Annual business meeting during the conference of the ASA (usually held in early November of each year). Since 1994 members of the caucus have gathered at each conference to plan the activities of the group for the coming year. Participation in the caucus is open to any interested member of the ASA. A steering committee works to carry out the goals of the caucus on an ongoing basis.
  • Annual reception during the conference of the ASA. The reception, which is jointly sponsored with the Art History/Visual Culture caucus, presents an informal opportunity for interaction and collegiality among members of the caucus.
  • Organizational advocacy. The Material Culture Caucus solicits and sponsors sessions relating to American material culture studies for inclusion in the program of the annual ASA conference. Likewise, the caucus seeks to promote an awareness of material culture through occasional columns in the ASA newsletter, with a presence on this Web site, and by maintaining ties with the ASA leadership.
  • Educational and scholarly resources. Material culture study is still a specialized (though growing) field, and more and more scholars in related disciplines are making use of material cultural resources in their teaching and research. The caucus works to provide high-quality resources at a range of levels, to promote not only the use of material cultural resources, but a high level of scholarship in the area. To this end, the caucus sponsors:
  • A moderated email discussion list, at the address artifact@listserv.umd.edu—please subscribe!
  • A growing World Wide Web site that includes bibliographies, examples, and teaching guides http://www.otal.umd.edu/amst/artifact/index.html

The Material Culture Caucus is still an evolving intiative, and we would be delighted to hear your comments and suggestions. Please join!

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Material Culture Caucus events in Los Angeles

An overview and a request for agenda items to be addressed at our annual meeting on the Saturday.

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Print and Material Culture Opening at Delaware

Please spread the word about this opening at the University of Delaware. I’m happy to answer questions and provide persuasion for anyone who is interested—especially members of the caucus!

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Survivor Objects Symposium

November 14 to 15 2014
University of Delaware
Newark De

Survivor Objects considers the meanings of material objects that have been tempered by trauma. By bearing historical witness, such objects can come to hold a privileged place in cultural memory and, as a result, play a powerful role for present-day communities. The symposium features faculty, graduate students, curators, and conservation specialists from across the country.

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Call for Participation: Material Culture Caucus at 2014 ASA Conference

The Material Culture Caucus of the American Studies Association wishes to encourage participation in the 2014 Annual Meeting: “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain In the Post-American Century,” November 6-9, 2014 at the Westin Bonaventure, Los Angeles, CA.

We hope to help link potential panelists with shared interests in material culture topics. If you, your colleagues, or doctoral students are considering proposals for the conference, please email us your panel CFP or your paper idea and we will work to connect similar panelists and papers. We are also happy to offer suggestions on complete panels.

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Material Culture Caucus Events at ASA 2013 in Washington, DC

Business Meeting
Saturday, 23 November 2013
11-12 am

Hilton E-Embassy (following the Visual Culture Caucus meeting, same room, 10-11)

Friday, 22 November (with the Visual Culture Caucus)

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium
Corner of 8th Street and F Street NW, Washington, DC 20001

Sponsored by Boston University’s American and New England Studies Program, University of Delaware’s Center for Material Culture Studies, the MA Program in the History of Decorative Arts and Design (a program run jointly by Parsons The New School for Design & Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum), and the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of the History of Art.

Sponsored panels and a few others of interest:

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Garden
Free Admission for ASA participants
10 am - 5 pm Weds - Sat during the conference
Hillwood Museum, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008

Thursday November 21, 2:00 pm - 3:45 pm

047. Caucus - Material Culture: Credit/Debit, Fealty/Faith: Doing, Subverting, and Archiving America’s Business from the Antebellum Era to Jim Crow

Washington Hilton, C - Cardozo (T)


Christopher Mark Brady Allison, Harvard University (MA)
The Materiality of American Trust: The R.G. Dun Credit Report Volumes

Shirley E. Thompson, University of Texas, Austin (TX)
As Though They Meant Something: Insurance Documents, Indebtedness, and African-American Freedom

Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa, University of Texas, Austin (TX)
The First Cut is the Deepest: Financial Records and the Indebted Archive


Wendy A. Woloson, Rutgers University, Camden (NJ)

Friday November 22, 10:00 am - 11:45 am

116. Caucus - Material Culture: About Something or for Someone? Curatorial Ethics and Cultural Debts (Off-site)

Hillwood Museum, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008


Sarah Anne Carter, Chipstone Foundation (WI)


Nicole Belolan, University of Delaware (DE)

Estella M. Chung, Hillwood Museum (DC)

Jenn Sichel, University of Chicago (IL)

Jonathan Frederick Walz, Rollins College (FL)

Saturday 22 November, 4:00-5:45

Washington Hilton, Concourse Level - Georgetown West (C)
Show me the Money: Museum Conversations of Debt and Commerce

Session Participants:

Chair: Ann Smart Martin (University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI))

Panelist: Nancy Davis (Smithsonian Museum of American History (DC))

Panelist: Peter Liebhold (Smithsonian Museum of American History (DC))

Panelist: Kathleen Franz (Smithsonian Museum of American History (DC))

Panelist: David Cowen (Museum of American Finance (NY))

Panelist: Stephen Mihm (University of Georgia (GA))

Panelist: Jessica Lautin (Museum of the City of New York (NY))

Panelist: Deborah Andrews (University of Delaware (DE))

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