Kenneth L. Ames

American and European Decorative Arts and Material Culture
Tradition, Taste, and Aesthetics
Travel, Tourism, and the Material World

Ph. D. Art History, University of Pennsylvania
M. A. University of Pennsylvania
B. A. Carleton College 

My current interest is in exploring shared continuities and behaviors in the material life of Europe and the United States over the last few centuries. Among these I include the enduring design authority of the Italian Renaissance and of classicism more generally; notions of what it means to live well materially; and the ways quality is expressed in different styles, cultural settings, and artifactual forms. I am also drawn to the phenomenon of tourism and its impact on the material world. What makes an artifact or a site a tourist attraction? How are attractions staged, interpreted, and marketed? What are the roles of preservation, conservation, and reconstruction? What is the nature of the tourist experience and what are its costs and benefits? In a related matter not limited to tourism, I am also intrigued by the ways the material world is marked or manipulated to reveal or conceal the past; in other words, how things may evoke or erase memory.

Selected Recent Publications:

  • Review of Beverly K. Brandt, The Craftsman and the Critic: Defining Usefulness and Beauty in Arts and Crafts-Era Boston, in The Journal of Modern Craft 3:1 (March 2010) 119-122
  • Review of Briann G. Greenfield, Out of the Attic: Inventing Antiques in Twentieth-Century New England, in American Furniture 2010, 241-248
  • Editor, American Christmas Cards 1900-1960 (New York: BGC, 2011)
  • “Writing on American Silver,” in Margaret K. Hofer et al., Stories in Sterling: Four Centuries of Silver in New York (New York: New-York Historical Society, 2011), 23-32
  • Review of Elizabeth Cromley, The Food Axis: Cooking, Eating, and the Architecture of American Houses, in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 71:1 (March 2012), 121-122


Read an interview with Professor Ames.

Kenneth L. Ames's courses include:

514 The Arts and Crafts Movement in America
568 American Silver
591 American Furniture of the 19th Century
593 American Furniture of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
785 The Antiques Trade in America
799 Domestic Material Culture of Nineteenth-Century America
832 English Silver
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