Methods

knife and fork
Knife and fork, England, ca 1770-1820 (Courtesy, Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library).

Fellows spend the majority of their time working with the extraordinary collections of rare books, manuscripts, and decorative arts at the Winterthur Museum. Although the object collections are strongest in the periods between 1650 and 1860, Fellows quickly develop a form of material literacy that serves them well when studying earlier or later periods.

They do much more than read or look. From the Program’s inception, the Museum has granted Fellows handling privileges so that they can study design, materials, fabrication techniques, tool marks, structure, and surface finishes with museum quality objects—some of them masterworks and some of them vernacular products. Program faculty and Museum curators teach analytical skills in the required Connoisseurship classes over three semesters.

Thinking critically about objects requires broad interdisciplinary knowledge of historiography, theory, and content. The Program insists that Fellows take courses in academic disciplines that will inform their grasp of historical contexts and theory. They generally select courses in the Departments of Art History, English and History to fulfill this requirement, but may select from courses in other units with permission of the Program's Director.

Professional success depends on the ability to analyze evidence, interpret meaning, and communicate ideas persuasively. Fellows hone speaking skills through guiding in the museum collections, leading seminar presentations, assisting with workshops, and giving lectures. They write a master's thesis on a topic of their choice during their second year. This year-long project improves research and writing skills, critical thinking, and content knowledge. Many Fellows go on to publish revised versions of their theses or develop their research into museum exhibitions.

Fellows also gain professional experience working with staff at Winterthur and Museums in the region, antiques dealers and auction houses, and field survey crews.

Finally, Program faculty conduct field-based learning beyond the Museum and the Mid-Atlantic region to expose students to a range of careers, people, objects and ideas. These courses and trips engage: museum, preservation, and conservation practices; design, decorative arts, and art history; historical landscapes, archaeology, and architecture; auctions, antiques dealing, and collecting; and libraries, archives, and special collections.

For more information on the curriculum and academic resources please read the appropriate pages under the curriculum or resources menus.

 

 

Winterthur Program in American Material Culture
knotting a rug
Caption

Students in EAMC 609, Craftsmanship in Early America, watching a demonstration of rug tying, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, March 2010.