Material culture is the idea that objects play an important role in a nation’s identity and culture. As Paula Findlen says in her essay “Early Modern Things: Objects in Motion, 1500-1800”
“[A] singular artifact bears witness to a wide range of human experience – capture and coercion, resistance and memory, curiosity and collection – and makes the history of this moment tangible and concrete.”
To put it in simpler terms, objects are a reflection of trends and values at a specific period in time in a certain place. For the United States, porcelain and “British baubles” use to be very important to early settlers. However, this all changed drastically with the Revolutionary war as many came to despise these trinkets and dispose of them. It raises the question of what objects would define us today? Would it be smartphones, computers, cars? Or something else, since many countries contribute to the production of similar products. It also makes me wonder whether Holland would differ from the national average in terms of what objects would define us. Or conversely, has our world become too globalized to that it is impossible not to appropriate and represent pieces of other cultures in our own art and objects?
Ellee Banaszak, Hope College, Class of 2017
Source: Findlen, Paula. “Early Modern Things: Objects in Motion, 1500-1800”