Catherine Whalen

Assistant Professor
American Material Culture Studies
Craft and Design History
History and Theory of Collecting

Ph.D. American Studies, Yale University
M.A. Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, University of Delaware
B.S. Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University 

My research interests encompass the history and theory of collecting; material culture studies historiography, methodology, and pedagogy; craft and design history; and vernacular photography. My current book project is Refined Materials for a Modern Nation: Francis P. Garvan, the Chemical Industry and the Politics of Collecting American Antiques in the Interwar United States. Rather than offer a conventional biography, I show how this outspoken ideologue’s political and business dealings informed his collecting practices and unpack the hefty symbolic freight that he believed American antiques carried in service of what was, by the 1930s, an ambitious project of cultural and economic nationalism. By doing so, I elucidate how objects perform a material politics; that is, enact political agendas and operate as an important form of cultural power. 

Selected Recent Publications:


Read an interview with Professor Whalen.


Catherine Whalen's courses include:

606 The Colonial Revival
622 From “Wild Things” to “A Sense of Things”: Issues in Design History and Material Culture Studies
692 American Material Culture Studies: Methods and Models
693 Craft and Design in the USA, 1945 to the Present
754 Film and Design in Hollywood
823 American Consumer Culture
829 Industrial Design in the 20th-Century United States
834 American Collectors and Collections
845 American Craft, Design, and Folk Art in the 1920s and 1930s
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