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College of Letters and Science

Material Culture Studies Certificate Program

Requirements for the Certificate

Website: www.materialculture.wisc.edu
Undergraduate certificate advisor: Ann Smart Martin, 205 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, 608-263-5684; asmartin@wisc.edu

Professors Boyd (Environment, Textiles and Design), Gilmore (Landscape Architecture), Gordon (Environment, Textiles and Design), Lee (History); Associate Professor Smart Martin (Art History); Assistant Professor Andrzejewski (Art History)

The Material Culture Group at the University of Wisconsin–Madison examines forms, uses, and meanings of objects, images, and environments in everyday life. By breaking down the barriers between traditional definitions of craft, design, folk, decorative, art, and history, we are able to see that these categories are all linked by expressions of creativity in everyday life. The program's strength lies in its ability to approach this variety of media, as well as to examine it from the perspective of a wide range of time periods. Program faculty are dedicated to innovative, interdisciplinary research and teaching that engage the material world of diverse cultures and times.

Material culture encompasses the study of the creation, uses, meanings, and interpretations of the tangible products of human endeavor. The purpose of the certificate is to create a program of study for upper-level undergraduate students in the area of material culture.

Sponsoring departments for the Material Culture Studies Certificate Program are the Department of Art History in the College of Letters and Science and the Environment, Textiles and Design Program in the School of Human Ecology. The primary focus of both departments is the study of objects from multiple perspectives: historical, iconographical, aesthetic, cultural, scientific, and behavioral. The certificate program focuses on the study of the object as evidence through which historical, cultural, behavioral, and social meanings can be revealed.

Because the study of material culture is inherently interdisciplinary, the certificate curriculum is designed so that students are able to complete requirements for the material culture certificate while still meeting those of existing undergraduate majors in departments throughout the university. This makes it possible to draw upon the breadth of resources related to material culture in a major research institution like the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

A major goal of the program is to introduce professional career paths for students with an interest in the relationship between objects, history, and culture, but who are not necessarily committed to careers in academia. Many students completing this program will pursue graduate work aimed toward careers in higher education, while others will complete it to prepare for a diverse number of careers and positions in museums, historical societies, architecture and design firms, product design, advertising, historic preservation, and journalism. The certificate is intended to help students bridge the academic and professional worlds.

Requirements for the Certificate

The certificate program in material culture studies requires 15 credits including two core courses, supplemented by electives. An internship/practicum experience is recommended.

The goal of the requirements is to provide students with a set of interdisciplinary skills including the development of visual literacy and understanding specific methods and theories of material culture analysis as it is most often practiced. A student might select electives to specialize in a particular geographic area of study or type of object, or to provide maximum depth in a certain period of time. At least 6 elective credits must be taken outside the student's home department and in different departments.

Core Courses

1. Dimensions of Material Culture (Art History 464, History 464, ETD 464), 3 cr

Prerequisite: course at the 300 level or above in either art history or design studies. Course is rotated among teams of two faculty members from the core material culture staff. The course explores the field of material culture, introducing the range of approaches and topics within it. Faculty, staff, and professionals from different disciplines and fields are invited to discuss their work and perspective, and discuss current literature. Students are encouraged to take a course from the list on the progam website to satisfy the prerequisite.

2. One course on material culture method and theory, 3 cr

To satisfy this requirement students must take one of the two following courses. The intent of this requirement is to teach the methods that material culture studies uses, a set of tools for analysis and how they can be used.

Art History 563 Proseminar in Material Culture: The Decorative Arts of Early America: Material Culture Interpretive Methods (Martin) or
ETD 512 Material Culture Analysis: The Arts and the Consumer Society (Gordon)

Electives, 9 credits

Beyond the two required core courses, students are free to fulfill their specific interests through 9 elective credits (three courses). Students may take only one course in any department.

For a list of possible elective courses, see list on the program website. Choices should be clustered around a focus. For example, one strategy is to take a range of courses related to a specific geographic area, specialization, or time period. Other students may choose to pursue a cluster of courses that emphasizes nationally emerging specializations within the field of material culture including courses related to museums/exhibitions, historic preservation, archival technology, or product design. Students should work with a material culture faculty member to develop this focus. Other courses can be selected as electives from traditional disciplinary approaches and content, but must be approved by the chair of the Material Culture Advisory Committee. Students must work closely with both their advisor within their home major and an advisor among material culture advisors to assure that both major and certificate requirements are fulfilled.

Additional Requirement: minimum GPA of 2.0


For course information, see the material culture website.