Conversely, E. McClung Fleming’s classic approach to material culture analysis, as described in “Artifact Study: A Proposed Model,” seeks to identify five properties of an object – its history (where and when it was made, by and for whom, why, and who else owned it), material, construction, design, and function (156). In order to glean this information, Fleming suggests four operations:
Meanwhile, Charles F. Montgomery’s involved method in “The Connoisseurship of Artifacts” examines several elements of an object while prioritizing aesthetics:
However, I am most interested in the gaps and silences revealed by material culture studies. What historical information is absent, missing, or erased from or by the physicality of an object? As Jennifer M. Black demonstrates through her article “Gender in the Academy: Recovering the Hidden History of Women’s Scholarship on Scrapbooks and Albums,” the artefacts of marginalized people are often excluded from scholarly categories and methodologies. The elitist, pseudo-scientific study of “stuff,” its circumscription by academia and other institutions, obscures the relative value placed upon and gleaned from everyday things. Further, as historians, we will never know the full stories of the objects we study. We deal in speculation.
For my study of a bowler hat this semester, I propose the following methodology: