Material Culture and the Built Environment

HON 498 – Dr. Maryann Rossi

Modes of Inquiry: Textual Analysis, Scientific and Mathematical Analysis, Artistic Creation and Analysis, Historical, Social and Cultural Analysis

Course Description:

This is intended to be a course in visual training as it relates to American culture.  There will be an in depth look at the historic preservation movement in the United States.  Anything superimposed on the natural landscape becomes part of the built environment.  It affects every facet of our existence from living to working to recreation.  Reclaimed spaces in urban areas, the ‘green’ movement and adaptive reuse are all part of the historic preservation movement.  There are myriad definitions of material culture.  The University of Delaware in its material culture studies program define it as: “Material culture is an interdisciplinary field that examines the relationship between peoples and their things, the making, history, preservation, and interpretation of objects.  It draws on theory and practice from such disciplines as art history, archeology, anthropology, history, historic preservation, folklore, and museum studies, among others.”  American decorative arts and architecture are closely aligned in development and style.  Seventeenth and eighteenth century America depended on European pattern books for the latest in high style furniture and architectural trends.  The five high style centers of pre-revolutionary America coincided with the political rhetoric of the period.  America’s history is mirrored in its cultural landscape. 


Emerson said it best, ‘America is a one generation culture’.  Was he right and what has changed?