Winterthur Program in American Material Culture

american material culture students montage

The Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, established in 1952 by the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum and the University of Delaware, provides a multidisciplinary approach to the study of American material life with special emphasis on decorative arts and household furnishings. The program approaches the study of material culture through interpretation of objects and the social context in which they were made and employed. The curriculum involves coursework at both the University of Delaware and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. The two-year course of study leads to a Master of Arts degree in American Material Culture from the University of Delaware. For more information on this program, click here.


Culture Fellows Research & Activities

Charles F. Montgomery Connoisseurship Competition

Each year, in early September, second-year Culture Fellows participate in this competition. They experience the important curatorial activity of discovering and presenting an object as a significant addition to a public collection.

In the months prior to the competition, each student must acquire an object for under $75. Then, on competition day, in a ten-minute presentation, the student proposes its acquisition by one of a pre-determined list of museums or libraries. The presentation must include statements about the object’s condition and potential need for conservation. The Culture Fellows look to their student colleagues in the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation for these assessments. A panel of three judges determines the winner of the $75 prize. 

Begun in the 1960s, by Winterthur Museum Director Charles F. Montgomery, the competition was reinstated in 1995, at the urging of Director Dwight Lanmon, an alumnus of the graduate program. The exercise helps students learn about the antiques trade and the availability of significant objects, in the marketplace, for a nominal sum. 

Thesis Presentations

For the students in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, graduation is thesis presentations. Each year in late May, the second-year Culture Fellows present their thesis research. In recent years, topics have ranged from the story of a seventeenth-century New York inhabitant whose descendants built houses in Delaware to the work of a twentieth-century designer of consumer packaging.

For further information about either presentation, please contact Winterthur’s Academic Programs Department at 302.888.4637.

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