This two-year program provides a multidisciplinary approach to the study of American material life with special emphasis on decorative arts and household furnishings. It approaches the study of material culture through interpretation of objects and the social context in which they were made and employed. Established in 1952 by Winterthur and the University of Delaware, the program involves coursework at both institutions. Graduates receive a Master of Arts degree in American Material Culture from the University of Delaware. For more information on this program, click here.

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Culture Fellows Research & Activities

Charles F. Montgomery Connoisseurship Competition

Second-year Culture Fellows experience the important curatorial activity of discovering and presenting an object as a significant addition to a public collection.

Each student must acquire an object for under $75. On competition day, the student makes a ten-minute presentation about 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 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. 

The exercise, named for Winterthur’s first museum director, 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 fellows present their thesis research. In recent years, topics have ranged from the story of a 17th-century New York inhabitant whose descendants built houses in Delaware to the work of a 20th-century designer of consumer packaging.

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