Material Culture

Historians with an interest in material culture deal with the physical manifestations and traces of the past, from wooden legal documents and stone inscriptions to maps, art, clothing, and statues. What can bindings tell us about texts, paper about the development of legal precedent, the plans of houses about social rituals? The study of goods, objects, and the built environment focuses attention on practices of consumption, trade, and the intimacies of daily life. Objects, distributions of remains, and spatial configurations all contribute to our understanding of the past, and their study is part of the crafting of new questions and the increasing interdisciplinarity of historical study. Historians in the Corcoran Department with these interests also tend to be active in the events and programming of other departments (such as Art History) and national organizations that are not specifically historical, such as the Archaeological Institute of America. The visualization of this evidence also leads us to be very active in various digital humanities initiatives, supported at the University of Virginia by the Scholars' Lab and the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.