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69, Menasha, Wis.).27 In 1948 George Tremaine Mc Dowell, a professor of English at the University of Minnesota, issued a seminal manifesto defining the nature of a relatively new field of enquiry that would usually be called "American Studies," "American Civilization," or "American Thought and Culture" in the over fifty institutions that would come to offer degrees in the discipline.Mc Dowell argued for a multidisciplinary approach to American culture and recognized the role that material culture evidence would play in such study.28 In 1951 he along with other Americanists — Ralph Gabriel, Willard Thorp, Roy Nichols, F. Matthiessen, John Kouwenhoven, Kenneth Murdock, Robert Spiller — formed the American Studies Association (ASA).In 1949 Colonial Williamsburg and Antiques magazine joined together to present the first Williamsburg Antiques Forum.Gathering together distinguished speakers from around the country, this week-long forum has become an annual event for both connoisseurs and general collectors.19 Other American museums (for example, Henry Ford, Cooperstown, Old Sturbridge Village) took to sponsoring antique forums, seminars, and weekends as the collecting of American objects grew from being the antiquarian hobby of an elite few to include a widespread, almost populist, band of enthusiasts who frequent the innumerable flea markets, study groups, and garage sales that occur every weekend in the U. One sociologist has described this intriguing phenomenon as "the democratization of the antique."20 An unprecedented expansion of history museums in the postwar era contributed to this wider awareness of extant American material culture — a fact recognized by Laurence Vail Coleman in his The Museum in America: A Critical Study published by the American Association of Museums in 1938.In summary these trends are: (a) three decades of expansion (in number and type) of American museums; (b) the tremendous growth of historic preservation activities; (c) the democratization of antique collecting; and (d) a renewed interest in local history and community heritage.All of the above shared, and continue to share, a common concern regarding the identification or preservation of American artifacts as a source of information, insight, or enjoyment.
The endeavour has often been identified by several, roughly synonymous labels: "artifact studies," "physical history," "museum studies," "pots-and-pans history," "aboveground archaeology," and "hardware history."1 Increasingly, the rubric "material culture" is used as the most generic name for describing the research, writing, teaching, and publication done by individuals who endeavour to interpret past human activity largely through extant physical evidence.2 Two American journals, for example, now carry this title on their mastheads.One outcome of this intramural debate was the formation of the Society for Historical Archaeology as well as the spread of the so-called "new archaeology." A number of interpreters trace this trend in American archaeology's approach to material culture to 1948 and Walter W.Taylor's A Study of Archaeology published that year (American Anthropological Association Memoir Series no.Only recently have individuals specifically defined themselves as material culturists.11 To date there is a paucity of historiography on either the American material culture movement in general12 or American material culture studies in particular.13 Obviously, both have had a continual reciprocal impact one upon the other, thereby making it exceedingly difficult to sort out direct causal influences.For the purposes of this essay, however, principal attention will be devoted to but a segment of the story.