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.

All undergraduate students in good academic standing are eligible to apply for the Material Culture Studies Certificate. Connect with an Academic Advisor for application information and the October and February deadlines.

*Note for students who are thinking about declaring the Material Culture Certificate as well as the Art History Certificate: Undergraduate students may request permission to complete both  the Material Culture certificate and the Art History certificate but only one course may overlap between the two certificates.  Please consult with an Academic Advisor with any questions.

Certificate Requirements

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, but not required.

Please note: Students who are thinking about declaring the Art History Certificate as well as the Material Culture Certificate: Undergraduate students may request permission to complete both the Art History Certificate and the Material Culture Certificate but only one course may overlap between the two certificates.  Please consult with an Academic Advisor with any questions.

Goal of Certificate Requirements

The goal of the certificate requirements is to provide students with a set of interdisciplinary skills, including the development of visual literacy, and an understanding of specific methods and theories of material culture analysis as they are 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.

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 337 Lithics and Archaeology3
ANTHRO 352 Ancient Technology and Invention3
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  354 Archaeology of Wisconsin3
ANTHRO 370 Field Course in Archaeology3-6
ANTHRO 391 Bones for the Archaeologist3
ANTHRO 696 Archaeological Methods of Curation1-3
ART HIST 210 A History of the World in 20 Buildings3
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 From Tomb to Temple: Ancient Chinese Art and Religion in Transition3
ART HIST 308 The Tastes of Scholars and Emperors: Chinese Art in the Later Periods3
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/​RELIG ST  373 Great Cities of Islam3
ART HIST/​ASIAN  379 Cities of Asia3
ART HIST 413 Art and Architecture in the Age of the Caliphs3
ART HIST/​ASIAN  428 Visual Cultures of India3
ART HIST 440 Art and Power in the Arab World3
ART HIST 457 History of American Vernacular Architecture and Landscapes3
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 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
FOLKLORE 320 Folklore of Wisconsin3
FOLKLORE 439 Foodways3
FOLKLORE/​L I S  490 Field Methods and the Public Presentation of Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​ANTHRO  520 Ethnic Representations in Wisconsin4
FOLKLORE 540 Local Culture and Identity in the Upper Midwest3
GEOG/​URB R PL  305 Introduction to the City3-4
GEOG 342 Geography of Wisconsin3
HIST SCI 222 Technology and Social Change in History3
JOURN/​HISTORY  560 History of U.S. Media4
LAND ARC 260 History of Landscape Architecture3
LAND ARC 677 Cultural Resource Preservation and Landscape History3
SCAND ST 296 The Scandinavian Heritage in America3
SCAND ST/​FOLKLORE  440 Scandinavian American Folklore3
THEATRE 327 History of Costume for the Stage3

Prerequisite: no prerequisites. 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.


The intent of this requirement is to have an intensive small-size seminar to teach the methods used by material culture scholars, a set of tools for analysis, hands-on training and more familiarity with material culture theories, themes and objects.


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.

Students must earn a minimum 2.000 GPA on required certificate coursework. Completed courses listed within the certificate curriculum, whether or not they meet a specific requirement, are included in the calculation of the GPA.


This undergraduate certificate must be completed concurrently with the student’s undergraduate degree. Students cannot delay degree completion to complete the certificate.

  1. Acquisition of skills to describe and analyze objects of multiple types, scales and media that constitute the material world across time and space.
  2. Understanding of the complex and multiple ways that objects and people relate in both the past and in the present using trans-disciplinary perspectives.
  3. 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, landscape history, and science studies.
  4. Discernment of the importance of materiality and making in the production and shaping of culture.
  5. Fluency in using research resources and tools appropriate for specific kinds of objects.
  6. Demonstration of particular skills for object-based research projects, as well as online and in-person exhibitions, using objects and collections to prepare students for careers that include positions in museums, archives, and other professional contexts.
  7. Coherent presentation of ideas in multiple media (oral, visual, digital, and written).


The Advising & Career Center (ACC) fosters undergraduate students' personal, academic, and professional development. Through advising, academic planning, and career education, we support students as they navigate the college experience—from exploring our majors as prospective students to becoming SoHE alumni. 

Academic Advising

Each SoHE student is assigned to an academic advisor in the Advising & Career Center. SoHE academic advisors support academic and personal success by partnering with current and prospective SoHE students as they identify and clarify their educational goals, develop meaningful academic plans, and pursue their own Wisconsin Experience. 

To explore academic advising resources or schedule an appointment with a SoHE academic advisor, visit Advising in SoHE

Note for students who are thinking about declaring the material culture certificate as well as the art history certificate: undergraduate students may request permission to complete both the material culture certificate and the art history certificate but only one course can overlap between the two certificates. Please consult with the Art History undergraduate advisor, Teddy Kaul (ejkaul@wisc.edu), with any questions related to the art history certificate.

Career Development

Active engagement in the career development process is a vital component of a student’s personal growth in college and future success as a lifelong learner, professional, and global citizen. SoHE career advisors help prepare students for life post-graduation through individual and group advising and integration of career readiness throughout our curriculum.

To explore career development resources or schedule an appointment with a SoHE career advisor, visit Career Development.

Careers: What can material culture do for you? Life-practice and Careers

Interdisciplinary practice is central to material culture analysis. Significant engagement with material culture can have a noteworthy positive effect on students from a wide range of majors in their preparation for future careers.  Understanding principles of design, analyzing the cultural meaning of physical objects, and gaining knowledge of varied systems of making, distributing, and using artifacts and consumer goods throughout history are all broadly applicable learning outcomes. The curricula of the 21st century often place extra value on science and technology, to the detriment of the study of the arts and humanities. The Material Culture Program helps integrate these and other disparate spheres into a university education. One undergraduate student summed it thus:

I ended up being able to use what I learned in material culture for my research in human computer interaction and design. I think having a background in material culture strengthened my skills as a user experience designer (which is what I will be doing at Intel after graduation).

Erica Lewis, 2016
Undergraduate certificate student
Engineering/Materials Design

Other material culture certificate holders have gone on to careers in museums, galleries, historic sites, historic preservation, digital media, design practice, universities, and business. Another former student comments:

Having worked in museums large and small, in education, exhibition design and development, collections, and interpretation—I draw on my background in Material Culture on a daily basis. As a historian, the practice of reading and contextualizing objects as primary sources is essential. But even more than an academic approach, the empathy one develops when learning to understand the world through the stuff of daily life is invaluable to the interdisciplinary collaboration of today's workplace. 

Anna Altschwager, 2004
Assistant Director, Guest Experience
Old World Wisconsin

Core Faculty

Stanley and Polly Stone Professor, Art History

Anna V. Andrzejewski, Professor, Art History

Sarah Carter, Visiting Executive Director, Center for Design and Material Culture

Yuhang Li, Associate Professor, Art History

Marina Moskowitz, Lynn and Gary Mecklenburg Chair in Textiles, Material Culture and Design

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

Jennifer Pruitt, Assistant Professor, Art History

Sissel Schroeder, Professor, Anthropology

Jonathan Senchyne, Assistant Professor, Library and Information Studies

Sarah Thal, Professor, History

Lee Palmer Wandel, Professor, History

Affiliate Faculty

William Aylward, Professor, Classics

Nicholas Cahill, Professor, Art History

Preeti Chopra, Associate Professor, Art History

Susan Cook, Director, School of Music

Thomas Dale, Professor, Art History

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

Colleen Dunlavy, Professor, Department of History

Nan Enstad, Professor, Department of History

Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Professor, Anthropology

James Leary, Emeritus Professor, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies

Tom Loeser, Professor, Art

Jung-hye Shin, Associate Professor​, Design Studies

Associated Museum Professionals

Jody Clowes, Director, James Watrous Gallery

Amy Gilman

Jon Prown, Director, Chipstone Foundation