The certificate in material culture studies has two interrelated goals. First, students will become acquainted with the field of material culture studies and its methodologies. They will learn what kinds of objects are considered in the study of material culture (from small, intimate artifacts of daily life to large cultural landscapes) and how scholars and professionals from different fields and in different contexts enlist material culture in their research and activities. They will gain an appreciation for the information artifacts can provide. They will learn the kinds of questions that can be asked of objects and the kind of information that artifacts can show us. They will become familiar with (and able to distinguish between) descriptive and interpretive components of material culture study, and gain an awareness of the variety of methods. Second, students will gain an appreciation for the ways that “things” help us to connect to the world and see it in a new way, and the ways “things” give meaning to our lives and the lives of those around us.

Students are required to declare the material culture studies certificate with the program's certificate faculty director, Professor Ann Smart Martin. Students are strongly urged to meet with the faculty director at their earliest convenience to declare the certificate. Professor Smart Martin can be reached at or by phone at 608-263-5684 to set up an appointment.

The Material Culture Studies Certificate Program requires that students complete 13 credits which includes the two core courses and two elective courses from the list below. An internship/practicum experience is recommended.

Core Courses (select two):
ART HIST/​ANTHRO/​DS/​HISTORY/​LAND ARC  264 Dimensions of Material Culture 14
ART HIST 563 Proseminar in Material Culture 23
Select at least two courses to reach 13 credit minimum: 36
ANTHRO 212 Principles of Archaeology3
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  354 Archaeology of Wisconsin3
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  355 Archaeology of Eastern North America3
ANTHRO 370 Field Course in Archaeology3-6
ANTHRO 391 Bones for the Archaeologist3
ANTHRO 696 Archaeological Methods of Curation1-3
ART HIST/​CLASSICS  300 The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Greece3-4
ART HIST/​CLASSICS  304 The Art and Archaeology of Ancient Rome3-4
ART HIST 305 History of Islamic Art and Architecture3
ART HIST 307 Early Chinese Art: From Antiquity to the Tenth Century3
ART HIST 308 Later Chinese Art: From the Tenth Century to the Present3
ART HIST/​DS  363 American Decorative Arts and Interiors: 1620-18403-4
ART HIST 364 History of American Art: Art, Material Culture, and Constructions of Identity, 1607-present3-4
ART HIST 413 Art and Architecture in the Age of the Caliphs3
ART HIST/​LCA  428 Visual Cultures of South Asia3
ART HIST 457 History of American Vernacular Architecture and Landscapes3
ART HIST 463 Topics in American Material Culture3-4
ART HIST 468 Frank Lloyd Wright3-4
ART HIST 475 Japanese Ceramics and Allied Arts3
ART HIST/​RELIG ST  478 Art and Religious Practice in Medieval Japan3
ART HIST 506 Curatorial Studies Exhibition Practice (Both 601 & 602)3
ART HIST 601 Introduction to Museum Studies I (Must complete both 601 & 602)3
ART HIST 602 Introduction to Museum Studies II (Must complete both 601 & 602)3
ART HIST/​HISTORY/​JOURN/​L I S  650 History of Books and Print Culture in Europe and North America3
DS 355 History of Fashion, 1400-Present3
DS 360 Global Perspectives on Design and Culture3
DS 420 Twentieth Century Design3
DS 421 History of Architecture and Interiors I: Antiquity through 18th Century3
DS 422 History of Architecture & Interiors II: 19th and 20th Centuries3
DS 430 History of Textiles3
DS 642 Taste3
DS/​FOLKLORE  655 Comparative World Dress3
FOLKLORE 320 Folklore of Wisconsin3
FOLKLORE 439 Foodways3
FOLKLORE/​L I S  490 Field Methods and the Public Presentation of Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​MUSIC  535 American Folk and Vernacular Music3
FOLKLORE/​ANTHRO/​MUSIC/​THEATRE  539 The Folklore of Festivals and Celebrations3
FOLKLORE 540 Local Culture and Identity in the Upper Midwest3
FOLKLORE/​ANTHRO  639 Field School: Ethnography of Wisconsin Festivals6-8
FOLKLORE/​DS  655 Comparative World Dress3
GEOG/​URB R PL  305 Introduction to the City3-4
GEOG 342 Geography of Wisconsin3
GEOG 508 Landscape and Settlement in the North American Past3
HIST SCI 222 Technology and Social Change in History3
HIST SCI 337 History of Technology3
JOURN/​HISTORY  560 History of Mass Communication4
LAND ARC 260 History of Landscape Architecture3
LAND ARC 677 Cultural Resource Preservation and Landscape History3
SCAND ST 284 The "Scandinavian Modern" Phenomenon in Arts and Literature3
SCAND ST 296 The Scandinavian Heritage in America3
SCAND ST/​FOLKLORE  440 Scandinavian American Folklore3
THEATRE 327 History of Costume for the Stage3

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 to satisfy the prerequisite.


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.


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.

residence and quality of work

A cumulative 2.000 GPA for all certificate coursework.

7 credits, counting for the certificate, taken in residence.

What Makes Material Culture Distinct from Other Approaches to Studying Objects?

  • Material culture emphasizes methods and approaches from a variety of disciplines
  • The extent of what students study in material culture classes is much more extensive in scope than the fine arts that are the domain of disciplines such as art history
  • Material culture courses – especially the core courses (Dimensions and Methods) emphasize hands-on study to a much greater degree than other approaches within the humanities

List of Learning Goals

  • Acquisition of skills to describe and analyze objects of multiple types, scales and media that constitute the material world across time and space
  • Understanding of the complex and multiple ways that objects and people relate in the past and in the present using trans-disciplinary perspectives
  • Ability to interpret and otherwise make meaning from objects using methods and theories from multiple disciplines including but not limited to art history, archaeology, anthropology, design, folklore/folklife studies, geography, history, literary studies, and landscape history and science studies
  • Discernment of the importance of materiality and making in the production and shaping of culture
  • Fluency in using research resources and tools across appropriate for specific kinds of objects
  • Gaining particular skills of object-based research projects and online and in-person exhibitions using objects and collections to prepare students for careers in museums, archives, and other professional contexts
  • Coherent presentation of ideas in multiple media (oral, visual, digital, and written).

All students should meet with the certificate's faculty director (Professor Ann Smart Martin, 205 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building) at or near the beginning of work on the certificate. At that meeting, students work with the director to outline their course of study, and match a course plan with their interests. After a plan is in place, students are encouraged to stay in regular contact with the undergraduate program advisor (Teddy Kaul, 222 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building;; 608-263-2373) as they continue through the program. Each term the program's director or advisor will contact all certificate students, asking those nearing completion of their certificate coursework to send a notification. For more information about the certificate, current course offerings, and contact information for the advisor, see the program website.

Core Faculty

Ann Smart Martin, Stanley and Polly Stone Professor, Art History

Anna V. Andrzejewski, Professor, Art History

William Aylward, Professor, Classics

Janet Gilmore, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture

Sherry Harlacher, Associate Faculty Associate, Integrative Design

Catherine M. Jackson, Assistant Professor, History

Yuhang Li, Assistant Professor, Art History

Mark Nelson, Professor, Design Studies

Lynn K. Nyhart, Vilas–Bablitch–Kelch Distinguished Achievement Professor, History

Monica Penick, Assistant Professor, Design Studies

Jennifer Pruitt, Assistant Professor, Art History

Sissel Schroeder, Professor, Anthropology

Jonathan Senchyne, Assistant Professor, Library and Information Studies

Sarah Thal, Associate Professor, History

Lee Palmer Wandel, Professor, History

Affiliate Faculty

Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Professor, Anthropology

Tom Loeser, Professor, Art

Nicholas Cahill, Professor, Art History

Preeti Chopra, Associate Professor, Art History

Thomas Dale, Professor, Art History

Henry Drewal, Professor, Art History

Quitman Phillips, Professor, Art History

Associated Museum Professionals

Jody Clowes, Director, James Watrous Gallery

Sarah Carter, Curator, Chipstone Foundation

Russell Panczenko, Director, Chazen Museum of Art

Jon Prown, Director, Chipstone Foundation

Maria Saffiotti Dale, Curator, Chazen Museum of Art

Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Program

Arijit Sen, Associate Professor, UW–Milwaukee

James Leary, Professor, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies

Jung-hye Shin, Associate Professor, Design Studies

Susan Bernstein, Professor, English

Lisa Cooper, Associate Professor, English

Colleen Dunlavy, Professor, History

Nan Enstad, Professor, History

Sam F. Dennis, Jr, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture

Susan Cook, Director, School of Music,  Music