Project Faculty and Staff
David Jaffee (Director) is Professor and Head of New Media Research at the Bard Graduate Center and directed the 2011 BGC NEH Summer Institute. He is a scholar of American material culture, author of A New Nation of Goods: Material Culture in Early America, a prize-winning study of craftsmen and consumers and the critical commodities, such as chairs, clocks, books, and family portraits, that fashioned a new Victorian culture in the decades before the Civil War. He has led numerous new faculty development seminars and programs, including the NEH supported New Media Classroom, Learning to Look with the American Social History Program, and NEH’s EDSITEMENT, while directing two major NEH grants to develop multimedia resources. His articles on artisans and artifacts in early America have appeared in The Journal of American History, William and Mary Quarterly, New England Quarterly, along with publications in the scholarship of teaching and learning on how students learn and faculty teach with material culture evidence. He curated the BGC-NYPL Student Digital Exhibit Visualizing Nineteenth-Century New York.
Catherine Whalen, Assistant Professor at the Bard Graduate Center, will be the lead guest lecturer for the first week and contribute to sessions in subsequent weeks. At Bard she teaches courses on the Methods and Theories of American Material Culture, the Culture of Collecting, and American Craft. Her research interests include the history and theory of collecting; material culture studies historiography, methodology, and pedagogy; craft and design history; and vernacular photography. She is currently completing a book on Refined Materials for a Modern Nation: Francis P. Garvan, the Chemical Industry and the Politics of Collecting American Antiques in the Interwar United States.
Kenneth L. Ames is Professor at the BGC and author of books including Death in the Dining Room and Beyond Necessity: Art in the Folk Tradition. His areas of specialization are American decorative arts and material culture of the 18th and 19th centuries, material culture and social class, uses of the past in the present, traditional arts and crafts, and the antiques marketplace. He is particularly interested in the shared continuities and behaviors in the material life of Europe and the United States. Most recently, he co-authored the exhibition catalogue Stories in Sterling: Four Centuries of Silver in New York, which is the first comprehensive survey of the New-York Historical Society's silver collection.
Ivan Gaskell is Professor, Curator, and Head of the Focus Gallery Project at the BGC, is a scholar and curator and author of studies ranging from Roman baroque sculpture, Native American baskets, and Congo textiles. He has a keen interest in the intersection of history, art history, anthropology, and philosophy, along with considerable expertise in conducting hands-on teaching workshops with objects. He has organized numerous exhibitions and has authored and/or edited several publications, and contributed to numerous periodicals on history, art history, and philosophy, including “Display,” in Material Religion (2011) and “Spilt Ink: Aesthetic Globalization and Contemporary Chinese Art” in the British Journal of Aesthetics (2012). He is currently working on the forthcoming book Tangible Things with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Sara Schechner, Sarah Anne Carter, and Samantha van Gerbig.
Bernard L. Herman is George B. Tindall Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He will be the lead guest lecturer in week two. His books include Architecture and Rural Life in Central Delaware 1700-1900 and Town House: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1760-1830—each awarded the Abbott Lowell Cummings Award as the best book on North American vernacular architecture. He has published essays on quilts, self-taught and outsider arts, foodways, historical archaeology, and theoretical approaches to the study of objects. He is currently working on a collection of essays on the critical relationships between objects, images, and narratives with a particular emphasis on contemporary quilts.
Katherine C. Grier, Professor of History and Director of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware, will be the lead guest lecturer in week three. A scholar of American material culture, her interests lie in the history of everyday life in America, especially household routines, domestic interiors, and foodways. Her current research focuses on the “fancy” breeding of plant and animals in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the environmental/social history of animal-human interaction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has worked in museums and historic sites as well at universities. Her books include Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity, 1850-1930 and Pets in America: A History.
Joshua Brown, Executive Director of the American Social History Project and Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, will be the lead lecturer in week four. His field of scholarship comprises 19th Century U.S. Social and Cultural History; Visual Culture; and New Media. He is author of Beyond the Lines: The Pictorial Press, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America, and is currently writing a book called The Divided Eye: Studies in the Visual Culture of the American Civil War. He has served as executive producer on many digital NEH-sponsored projects, including Liberty, Equality, Fraternity; History Matters; The Lost Museum; and Picturing U.S. History.
Amelia Peck is Marica F. Vilcek Curator in the Department of American Decorative Arts and Manager of the Henry R. Luce Center for the study of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and author of numerous publications, including American Quilts and Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum; Alexander Jackson Davis: American Architect; Period Rooms in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Candace Wheeler: The Art and Enterprise of American Design, 1875-1900. She has served as a consultant on several historic preservation and exhibition projects at historic sites and museums. Cynthia Copeland is a public historian, interpretative specialist, curator and professor. She is the President of the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History. She directed several digital learning projects at the New-York Historical Society, developed numerous programs and walking tours about New York City history, and also teaches at New York University.
Edward S. Cooke Jr. is Charles F. Montgomery Professor, History of Art American Decorative Arts and Material Culture at Yale University and the director of the Yale Center for the Study of American Art and Material Culture. He is author of Making Furniture in Pre-industrial America: The Social Economy of Newtown and Woodbury, Connecticut as well as curator of five other exhibitions and author of numerous works, including studies of Boston’s Arts and Crafts Movement and American studio furniture. He teaches courses at Yale on American decorative arts and domestic architecture from the seventeenth century to the present.
Debra Schmidt Bach is Associate Curator of Decorator Arts at the New-York Historical Society and the former Tiffany & Co. Foundation Research Fellow in American Silver at the New-York Historical Society. She is one of the authors of Stories in Sterling: Four Centuries of Silver in New York, as well as curator of many exhibitions such as Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History (2012).
Jack (John Kuo Wei) Tchen is Associate Professor of History and Director of Asian/Pacific/American Studies at New York University. He co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America in 1979-80 where he continues to serve as senior historian. He was awarded the Charles S. Frankel Prize from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is author of New York before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 and Genthe's Photographs of San Francisco's Old Chinatown, 1895-1905. He is currently involved in the formation of an Asian Pacific American Center at the Smithsonian Institution and working on a book focusing on the tradition of the intermingling of people, creativity, and improvisation of everyday residents in New York City.
Kimon Keramidas is Assistant Director for the Digital Media Lab, Bard Graduate Center. He received his PhD in Theatre from the CUNY Graduate Center. He has taught courses on media/performance, interface design, and other topics in theatre and new media, including a course at the BGC called “Interface Design: Material Objects and Immaterial Culture.” His research focuses on digital media with particular focus on intellectual property, information access, interactive technology and video gaming.
Cynthia Copeland is a public historian, interpretative specialist, curator and professor. She is the President of the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History. She directed several digital learning projects at the New-York Historical Society, developed numerous programs and walking tours about New York City history, and also teaches at New York University.
Cindy Lobel is Associate Professor of History at Lehman College and the Graduate Center (CUNY), and the author of Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York (2014) along with many articles on food ways, historic New York neighborhoods, public history, and material culture. She is currently working on two biographies, one of Catharine Beecher, a pioneer of American women’s education, and the other of Thomas Downing, a nineteenth-century African American oysterman and civil rights pioneer.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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