Spring 2024 Murphy Lecture

Change from the Ground Up: Material Culture in US Art Museums

Dr. Ruthie Dibble, The Robert N. Shapiro Curator of American Decorative Art

Thursday, April 25, 2024 5:30 pm
Spencer Museum of Art
Marilyn Stokstad Lecture Hall RM 211

In the 20th century, American art museums typically defined their collections in opposition to “material culture,” positioning themselves as the gatekeepers of artistic excellence and as spaces that literally and metaphorically lift objects out of their social contexts. In the past four years, however, collecting and exhibiting material culture objects, including tools, pottery, and archeological fragments, has emerged as a crucial strategy for fostering critical narratives around race, class, and gender in American art. Through case studies, this talk will explore what is at stake when art museums reject, struggle with, or embrace objects categorized as “material culture” in their attempts to produce relevant and truthful exhibitions of American art.

Lecture Poster