Scope of the Institute
Project Content
Individual Projects and Meetings
Academic Resources
Project Faculty and Staff
Stipends and Housing
Application Instructions and Contact Information

Professor Edward S. Cooke, Jr. leading hands-on session at the Yale University Art Gallery, 2013. Photo: Amy Werbel.

Project Directors

Catherine Whalen is Co-director, and Associate Professor at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City, where she has taught full-time since 2007. Her research and teaching interest encompass history and theory of collecting, material culture studies historiography and methodology, gender, vernacular photography, and US craft and design history. Her work has been featured in journals including Winterthur Portfolio, Studies in the Decorative Arts, Nineteenth Century, and Afterimage as well as the anthology Using Visual Evidence. Whalen is also the co-author of “Europe and the Americas 1900-2000” in History of Design, Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000 (2013), edited by Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber. Most recently, she contributed the essay “Collecting as Historical Practice and the Conundrum of the Unmoored Object” to the Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture (forthcoming 2017), edited by Ivan Gaskell and Sarah Anne Carter.

Whalen’s forthcoming book is titled Material Politics: Francis P. Garvan, American Antiques, and the Alchemy of Collecting in the Interwar United States, from University of Massachusetts Press. Rather than offer a conventional biography, Material Politics showcases 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. Two of Whalen’s ongoing projects focus on the history of postwar American craft and design. She is the founding director of the Bard Graduate Center Craft and Design Oral History Project, an online archive of interviews with contemporary craftspeople, artists, and designers conducted by Bard Graduate Center students. This initiative responds to the growing academic interest in this subject area, in which oral histories are a key resource for scholarship. In addition, she is co-editor of Craft as Art, Art as Craft: Paul Hollister’s Collected Writings on Studio Glass, which brings together important published work by this noted critic and historian of the studio glass movement.

Katherine C. (Kasey) Grier is Co-director, and Professor, Department of History, and Director of the Museum Studies Program at the University of Delaware. From 2006 to 2016, she also directed the American Civilization Program, a track in the doctoral program that emphasizes interdisciplinary scholarship and material culture studies, in the Department of History. Her teaching in material culture and museum studies emphasizes hands-on experience with collections and group collaboration on projects. Currently, Grier’s students are continuing to build Disposable America, a website devoted to exploring the history of disposability through object stories, including long-form digital essays, an object gallery, a digital exhibition and lesson plans for teachers. The recipient of a 21st Century Museum Professionals grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2010, Grier headed up Sustaining Places, a three-year project that provided training opportunities for both graduate students and regional small-museum staff.

Grier’s scholarship centers on Victorian America. She has written on the history of domestic life and domestic interiors—Culture and Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity 1850-1930 (1992)—and foodways and dining—as a contributor to China and Glass in America: From Tabletop to TV Tray (2000). In 2006, she published Pets in America: A History and curated a touring exhibition on the history of pet keeping in the United States, At Home With Animals, which traveled to seven venues over three years. Both projects introduced the rich material and visual culture associated with keeping animals in the household as companions, status symbols and hobbies. Grier also maintains The Pet Historian, a blog devoted continued explorations into the material and visual culture of pet keeping. Current projects focus on the rise of competitive “fancy breeding” of small animals as a pastime for men and boys in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the evolving architecture and interiors of the animal shelter from 1870 to the present. She is also working on an exercise book for teaching the use of material culture for both social studies and language arts in secondary school and college classrooms.

David Jaffee Professor and Head of New Media Research at Bard Graduate Center. The Bard Graduate Center community deeply mourns the passing of David Jaffee on January 20, 2017. In addition to his many outstanding achievements as a scholar and a teacher, David originated the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute American Material Culture: Nineteenth-Century New York at Bard Graduate Center. He directed the program in 2011, 2013 and 2015, and was instrumental in planning the 2017 Institute. Project Co-directors Catherine Whalen and Katherine C. (Kasey) Grier will lead American Material Culture: Nineteenth-Century New York this summer in accordance with David’s vision. David Jaffee in Memoriam

Professor Ivan Gaskell presenting Chitimacha (from Louisiana), Hoopa and Yurok (from northern California including), as well as Pomo and Maidu baskets, from the first half of the 20th century. American Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Division, 2013. Photo: Zahava Friedman-Stadler.

Project Faculty and Staff

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 (2002), 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.

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 (1996) 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.

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.

Zahava Friedman-Stadler is the Grant Administrator and Program Assistant at Bard Graduate Center, where she manages grant-funded academic projects including the NEH Summer Institute. She received her MA from Bard Graduate Center where she studied digital media, history, anthropology, and folklore. She has supported educational, curatorial, collections, and digital initiatives at museums and cultural organizations in New York, Rome, and Washington, DC. In addition to her work at Bard Graduate Center, Friedman-Stadler privately consults for artists and collectors on various projects, ranging from artistic production to collections management.

Ivan Gaskell Professor, Curator, and Head of the Focus Gallery Project at Bard Graduate Center, 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 recently co-authored Tangible Things (2015) with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Sara Schechner, Sarah Anne Carter, and Samantha van Gerbig, and is currently co-editing the Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture with Sarah Anne Carter.

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 faculty member in week two. His books include Architecture and Rural Life in Central Delaware 1700-1900 (1987) and Town House: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1760-1830 (2005)––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.

Jesse Merandy is the Director of the Digital Media Lab at Bard Graduate Center. Prior to this he was a web developer and web designer at The CUNY Graduate Center, Rutgers University, and for the Mickle Street Review, a peer-reviewed Walt Whitman and American studies journal. He has taught courses and workshops at Bard Graduate Center, The CUNY Graduate Center, John Jay College, and Rutgers University. He is currently a PhD candidate at The CUNY Graduate Center.

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 (1990); Alexander Jackson Davis: American Architect (1992); Period Rooms in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1996), Candace Wheeler: The Art and Enterprise of American Design, 1875-1900 (2001), and Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800 (2013). She has served as a consultant on several historic preservation and exhibition projects at historic sites and museums.

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 (2011), 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 (1999) and Genthe’s Photographs of San Francisco’s Old Chinatown, 1895-1905 (1984). 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.

Professor Ivan Gaskell presenting Chitimacha (from Louisiana), Hoopa and Yurok (from northern California including), as well as Pomo and Maidu baskets, from the first half of the 20th century. American Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Division, 2013. Photo: Zahava Friedman-Stadler.

Please direct all application inquiries to: [email protected], and for more details visit the Application Instructions and Contact Information page.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.