The Antiques Trade in America


Spring 2011


4th Floor Classroom


Kenneth L. Ames

Without cultural and technological change, there can be no antiques.  Antiques are survivors from earlier times, earlier societies; they represent obsolete or archaic understandings or practices.  Antiques (aka antiquities) have been valued in many societies for centuries but the American antiques phenomenon traces its origins only to the nineteenth century.  This course is part history and part ethnography.  Our goals are to understand 1) the changing nature of the antiques trade and the enthusiasm for antiques, broadly conceived, from their origins to the present, and 2) to assess the structure, orientation, and condition of both today.   In-class discussions of key readings are augmented by expeditions into the antiques marketplace to observe the interplay of social class, money, taste, and knowledge that shape value.  Students will create a market profile for one category of goods, mapping out the prevailing hierarchy from objects offered in shops, shows, auctions, and on-line venues.  The roles of supporting industries, among them museums and publications, will also be examined. 3 credits.