Material Culture Links

“So, what is material culture anyway?” This is a question I often hear. It’s not about the monetary value alone, but the historical, aesthetic, and cultural values and technological and social meanings of an artifact that constitute the field of material culture studies.

The websites below are useful for thinking about things and learning about the unruly field of American material culture studies. I’ve also included links to online collections of specific types of material culture. These are meant as introductions, not full treatments.

The one thing material culture studies once promised was an expansive view of the material world, but many in the field are not generalists, but specialists in one type or a few categories of objects. For a very large bibliography of American material culture studies, see this expanded list created for American Material Culture:  Understanding Everyday Life (2008) by Helen Sheumaker and me.

American Material Culture Studies Bibliography (last updated 2008; 88 pages and counting; opens in new window)

Discussion Lists

H-Material Culture


Academic Centers and Programs, United States

Bard Graduate Center:  Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture

Center for Material Culture Studies, University of Delaware

Material Culture Program, University of Wisconsin

Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, University of Delaware

Online Collections, Exhibitions, and Resources

Advertising and Advertisements

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History (for online images see Ad*Access)

Architecture, Interior Design, Built Environment, Landscape

Built in America:  The Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscape Survey, Library of Congress

Architecture and Interior Design for 20th Century America:  Photographs by Samuel Gottscho and William Schleisner, 1935-1955, Library of Congress

Decorative Arts

Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture:  Image and Text Collections, University of Wisconsin


Farber Collection, American Antiquarian Society


David Rumsey Map Collection

Map Collections, Library of Congress

Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection, University of Texas, Austin


Early American Paintings, Worcester Art Museum


Google Patents

United States Patent and Trademark Office

Prints, Posters, and Ephemera

An American Time Capsule:  Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera, Library of Congress

By the People, For the People:  Posters from the WPA, 1935-1943, Library of Congress

The Picture Collection Online, New York Public Library


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s