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.

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 undergraduate advisor, Teddy Kaul (, with any questions.

Students are required to declare the material culture studies certificate with the program's certificate faculty director, Professor Ann Smart Martin, or the undergraduate program advisor in the Department of Art History, Teddy Kaul. Students are strongly urged to meet with the faculty director, or the undergraduate advisor, 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.  Teddy Kaul is located in the Conrad A. Elvehjem Building in room 222; he can be reached at, or by phone at 608-263-2373, to set up an appointment. 

*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 undergraduate advisor, Teddy Kaul (, 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.

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.

Quality of Work and Residency Requirements

A cumulative 2.000 GPA required for all certificate coursework.
7 credits, counting for the certificate, taken in residence at UW–Madison.

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 463 3-4
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 3
DS 420 3
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 655 3
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/​ANTHRO/​MUSIC/​THEATRE  539 The Folklore of Festivals and Celebrations3
FOLKLORE 540 Local Culture and Identity in the Upper Midwest3
FOLKLORE 639 6-8
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 3
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 284 3
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.


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).


All students should contact the certificate's faculty director (Professor Ann Smart Martin, 205 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building;  608-263-5684) at or near the beginning of work on the certificate. Students should work with the director to outline their course of study and discuss 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 that includes an estimate of when they will be completing the certificate requirements. For more information about the certificate and contact information for the advisor, see the program website.

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

L&S career resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.

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