Center for Material Culture Studies (CMCS) Working Group

Material Culture Studies collage





The multiple ways in which people produce and interact with objects forms the foundation for the study of material culture. The mission of the Center for Material Culture Studies Working Group (CMCS WORKING GROUP) at the Ohio State University focuses on the interdisciplinary study of human-mediated objects and the production of them in relation to the breadth of their cultural meanings.

During the academic year 2013 to 2014, the CMCS Working programmed a number of events to promote interest in material culture studies on The Ohio State University Campus and vicinity.

The CMCS Working Group sponsored five events.

o   B. Stephen Carpenter II, presented “Water Object(ive)s: Artistic Intervention, Curriculum, and Public Pedagogy” as part of Artists Talks, cosponsored by the CMCS Working Group, The Wexner Center for the Arts, and the OSU Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy. Carpenter is Professor in Charge, in the Art Education Program, at Penn State University and member of Potters for Peace. Wexner Center for the Arts Film/Video Theater, September 26th, 2013

o   Joy McCorriston, presented “Monuments as Material Culture among Mobile Pastoralists in Arbabia” McCorriston is Professor, Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, George Wells Knight House, November 6, 2013.

o   Jenny Robbled a tour of the the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, January 22, 2014.

o   John Block Friedmanpresented “Carnations, Social Status and the Power over Nature in  Some Fifteenth and Sixteenth-Century Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts.” Friedman is Emeritus Professor of English and Medieval Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). George Wells Knight House. February 19, 2014,

o   Gayle Stregeand Marlise Schoeny led a tour of “History’s closet: Teaching History through Clothes”(Curator, Historic Costume & Textiles Collection) “History’s Closet: Teaching History through Clothes,” April 3, 2014.

The ways in which people interact with the objects in their daily lives forms the basis of the study of material culture. The mission of the Center for Material Culture Studies (CMCS) at the Ohio State University focuses on the interdisciplinary study of human mediated objects and the breadth of their cultural meanings. The center will provide a forum for inquiry and research centered on material culture. It also will foster the creation of new knowledge by increasing the visibility, accessibility, and use of the diverse collections held across the university whose current lack of integration constrains their use in research. The Working Group for the Center for Material Culture Studies will advance the planning and activities of the center in preparation for its formal introduction to the university and the community at large.

The CMCS is by design meant to serve as a contextual bridge across existing academic units. It is not meant to replace or replicate an existing unit; rather it seeks to enrich the university and to foster use of university collections through interdisciplinary research and intellectual discourse. The CMCS will:

·         Serve as an umbrella organization to link OSU collections such as the Theatre Research Institute and the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection with areas of expertise of university faculty and professional staff.

·         Increase accessibility of the collections to the faculty, professional staff and students of the university as well as to the larger community of allied organizations.

·         Develop partnerships locally, nationally, and globally, including with museums, historical societies as well as professional organizations.

·         Plan thematic exhibitions and hosting symposia focused on emerging issues in material culture research e.g. learning from objects, cultural literacy

·         Offer a new way to link academic coursework in an interdisciplinary framework leading to an undergraduate minor and interconnected Master’s and Phd programs.

Draft Proposal to Establish The Center for Material Culture Studies [pdf]

Coordinated by

Deborah Smith-Shank

Clayton Funk

Deborah Smith-Shank (Art Education) and Clayton Funk (Art Education)

Faculty interested in joining and presenting their research and/or creative work to the group should contact