Theory and Methods of Material Culture Studies

Museum Studies Program
University of West Georgia and the Atlanta History Center

Museums contain collections of artifacts that they must interpret through exhibits and programs. This course focuses on the different ways in which historians analyze and interpret artifacts. Students read and discussion books and essays from a variety of approaches from scholars in anthropology, art history, archaeology, and history. In addition, we visit the Atlanta History Center exhibits to see how museum use artifacts. As a culminating project, each student writes a research paper using artifacts as a primary source.

Class photo, May 2004, at Cracker Barrel Restaurant,
suggested by student Matt Ellis for its wide array of material culture!

In the spring of 2004, the Material Culture class read topics on material culture ranging from 17th century deaths-head gravestones in New England to nineteenth century parlor furnishings to Tupperware and what it says about contemporary American culture. We enjoyed a visit from Aki Todd demonstrating the Japanese tea ceremony and helping us understand more about the objects associated with the ceremony. We ended our class with a dinner at Cracker Barrell, after student Matt Ellis reminded us throughout the semester that we could find almost anything at the Cracker Barrell stores! Our projects included the meaning of Southern tea cakes, the changes in Elvis' style of clothing, judicial robes in America, the meaning of tartan plaids, Prisoner of War leisure-time artifacts, among others! Click here to view the Syllabus for our spring 2004 class.

Enjoying at end-of-the-semester class dinner and

Time to show and tell our class research projects on the
front porch! Here, Noelle shares her research on girdles.

Aki Todd demonstrates a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony for class. Upper left, Teresa Beyer learns how to hold the cup. Upper right, Aki tries on her kimono and explains its significance. Below, Aki prepare tea to share with students.

The spring 2002 class celebrated the end of class with a dinner and presentation of research, shown in the photo below.Student projects ranged from twentieth-century military helmets and Delta flight attendant scarves
to Russian nesting dolls and Graceland. Click here to view our Syllabus for 2002.

At the end of the semester, the class of 2002
met for dinner and students shared their research.

For more information on the Museum Studies Program, please contact Dr. Ann McCleary, History Department, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Ga 30118, 770-838-3031 or by email at

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