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Colleagues in American Studies and material culture,
Born in Nashville in 1994, the Caucus will be 20 at the ASA meeting in Los Angeles in 2014. To prepare for this birthday celebration, we’re launching an “American Studies in 20 objects project,” and I’m writing to solicit your object nomination.
The project was suggested by Shirley Wajda and is inspired by the British Museum’s “A History of the World in 100 Objects” http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/a_history_of_the_world.aspx), which has prompted the New York Times’s “A History of New York in 50 Objects” (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/09/02/nyregion/a-history-of-new-york-in-50-objects.html).
We talked a bit about this at the Caucus meeting last year, including ways to solicit nominations and criteria for selecting the final 20. The most likely outcome is a web-based document that lists the 20 objects and provides some scholarly commentary on each. It will address teachers of American Studies and material culture in the high school and college classroom. It will be hosted on the Center for Material Culture Studies website at the University of Delaware.
Sample criteria for selection: something uniquely American (however you define that); something of major cultural, aesthetic, historical, or technological significance; something that represents the best in its class of such objects. Maybe your object can fit all three criteria (Shirley suggests the Star-Spangled Banner). Objects might be documents, items of daily use, paintings, statues, neon signs, buildings, refineries, a highway, canal, main street. The objects should help teachers tell—and students learn—the story of America over its entire history. They are objects that shape and mark the memories of individuals and communities.
Please send me your entry, with a brief comment about why you chose it. Note, too, whether you’d be willing to write a longer (250-500 word) commentary on it if it’s chosen for the final compendium.
‘hope to hear from you by the end of April.
University of Delaware