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 264 14
ART HIST 563 23
Select at least two courses to reach 13 credit minimum: 36
ANTHRO 212 3
ANTHRO 337 3
ANTHRO 352 3
ANTHRO 354 3
ANTHRO 370 3-6
ANTHRO 391 3
ANTHRO 696 1-3
ART HIST 210 3
ART HIST 300 3-4
ART HIST 304 3-4
ART HIST 305 3
ART HIST 307 3
ART HIST 308 3
ART HIST 363 3-4
ART HIST 364 3-4
ART HIST 373 3
ART HIST 379 3
ART HIST 413 3
ART HIST 428 3
ART HIST 440 3
ART HIST 457 3
ART HIST 463 3-4
ART HIST 468 3-4
ART HIST 475 3
ART HIST 478 3
ART HIST 506 (Both 601 & 602)3
ART HIST 601 (Must complete both 601 & 602)3
ART HIST 602 (Must complete both 601 & 602)3
ART HIST 650 3
DS 355 3
DS 360 3
DS 420 3
DS 421 3
DS 422 3
DS 430 3
DS 642 3
DS 655 3
FOLKLORE 639 6-8
GEOG 305 3-4
GEOG 342 3
GEOG 508 3
HIST SCI 222 3
HIST SCI 337 3
JOURN 560 4
LAND ARC 260 3
LAND ARC 677 3
SCAND ST 284 3
SCAND ST 296 3
SCAND ST 440 3


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 meet with 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. At that meeting, students work with the director to outline their course of study, and to 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 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

Core Faculty

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

Anna V. Andrzejewski, Professor, Art History

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

Janet Gilmore, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture

Yuhang Li, Associate Professor, Art History

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

Mark Nelson, Professor, Design Studies

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

Henry Drewal, Professor, Art History

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

Quitman Phillips, Professor, Art History

Jung-hye Shin, Associate Professor​, Design Studies

Associated Museum Professionals

Jody Clowes, Director, James Watrous Gallery

Amy Gilman

Jon Prown, Director, Chipstone Foundation

Maria Saffiotti Dale, Curator, Chazen Museum of Art