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History from Things: Essays on Material Culture / Edition 1

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Overview

   History from Things explores the many ways objects—defined broadly to range from Chippendale tables and Italian Renaissance pottery to seventeenth-century parks and a New England cemetery—can reconstruct and help reinterpret the past. Eighteen essays describe how to “read” artifacts, how to “listen to” landscapes and locations, and how to apply methods and theories to historical inquiry that have previously belonged solely to archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, and conservation scientists.

   Spanning vast time periods, geographical locations, and academic disciplines, History from Things leaps the boundaries between fields that use material evidence to understand the past. The book expands and redirects the study of material culture—an emerging field now building a common base of theory and a shared intellectual agenda.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Readers should find in History from Things much to provoke thinking about material culture and a stimulus to the type of interdisciplinary communication that the field of material culture studies has tried to offer.”—Journal of American History

History from Things reminds us of the intellectual power of artifact analysis. . . . [It] is a useful book for beginning and experienced teachers of social studies, at every grade level, on the ways to use material culture to better understand the past and as routes to reflect on the more abstract features of culture.”—Social Education

“Eighteen essays discuss the use of artifacts and material culture evidence in broadening historical understanding of the past. Contributors come from a wide array of backgrounds, including art history, anthropology, archaeology, and the history of technology, and the artifacts examined range from Chinese bronzes to the cultural landscape of eighteenth-century English gardens and from New England cemeteries to a twentiety-century steam locomotive. Individually these essays push out the boundaries of material culture study, while collectively they transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.”—Science, Technology, and Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560986133
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.99 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Lubar is curator of engineering and industry at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.

W. David Kingery
is Regents Professor of Anthropology and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
The Truth of Material Culture: History or Fiction? 1
Why We Need Things 20
Objects as Instruments, Objects as Signs 30
Some Matters of Substance 41
The Ancestry of Chinese Bronze Vessels 51
The Interpretation of Artifacts in the History of Technology 74
Gardens and Society in Eighteenth-Century England 94
Common Landscapes as Historic Documents 115
The New England Cemetery as a Cultural Landscape 140
Artifacts as Expressions of Society and Culture: Subversive Genealogy and the Value of History 160
Why Take a Behavioral Approach to Folk Objects? 182
Machine Politics: The Political Construction of Technological Artifacts 197
Technological Systems and Some Implications with Regard to Continuity and Change 215
Replication Techniques in Eastern Zhou Bronze Casting 231
Technological Styles: Transforming a Natural Material Into a Cultural Object 242
The Biography of an Object: The Intercultural Style Vessels of the Third Millennium B.C. 270
The Sign of the Object 293
Contributors 299
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