Fields of Vision: The Material and Visual Culture of New England, 1600-1830
November 9 & 10, 2007
Given the explosion of scholarship in cultural history over the past twenty-five years, what now is the place of objects in the study of the past? What role do material and visual culture studies play in scholarly conversations that range over topics as diverse as race, sexuality, gender, nationalism, ethnicity, power and global interaction? In turn, in the face of increasingly trans-national scholarship in early America what can we gain from attention paid to a single region and its artifacts?
Presenters and participants in the conference will discuss these and other questions as a way of rethinking not just the material and visual world of early New England, but also the techniques by which we can uncover meaning in historic objects and images.
While focused on New England artifacts, Friday afternoon's presentations will turn our attention away from regional particularities to situate objects and images in trans-Atlantic and global contexts. Another panel will reexamine the relationships of objects — from pottery shards to merchant houses — to their economic contexts and assertions of cultural authority. Concepts of memory and remembrance as both public and private expression; the interplay between object and text, and the animacy and sensuality of objects for both maker and viewer will frame sessions on Saturday that examine artifacts of material life as various as funeral processions, biographical needlework, gravestones, book illustrations, portrait miniatures, and waxwork figures. Conference papers also underscore the continued importance of interdisciplinary approaches for material and visual culture studies by featuring the work of archeologists, art historians, social and cultural historians, curators and literature scholars.
A Friday evening plenary session will mark the twenty-five-year anniversary of the exhibition New England Begins and its accompanying three-volume catalogue. In a roundtable discussion, scholars who worked on New England Begins will reflect on the project and its impact on their scholarship as well as on how the disciplines of material and visual culture have shifted since that landmark exhibition and publication.
The conference is open to the public.
~ Schedule and Program ~
Friday, November 9:
Afternoon session in Antiquarian Hall, American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester
2 p.m. Welcome from Georgia B. Barnhill, American Antiquarian Society and Martha J. McNamara, Wellesley College, conference co-organizers
Opening Remarks from Ellen Dunlap, President, American Antiquarian Society, and Donald Friary, President, Colonial Society of Massachusetts
2:15 Leora Auslander, University of Chicago, American Exceptionalism: Visual and Material Culture in Colonial and Revolutionary America
3:00 Session One: Geography: Envisioning an Expanding World
- Kevin R. Muller, University of California at Berkeley, Navigation, Vision, and Empire: Eighteenth-Century Engraved Views of Boston in a British Atlantic Context
- Martin Brückner, University of Delaware, Moving Pictures, Removing Indians: The Image of the Native American in Eighteenth-Century Maps.
- Patricia Johnston, Salem State College, The Collections of the East India Marine Society: Art as Global Education in the Early Republic.
- Moderator: Jennifer L. Roberts, Harvard University
4:30 Session Two: Economy, Authority and Material Life
- Emerson W. Baker, Salem State College, The Archaeology of 1690: Material Life on New England's Northern Frontier.
- Joseph F. Cullon, Dartmouth College, The Art of Business and the Business of Art: New England Portraits in Early National New England.
- Kevin D. Murphy, CUNY Graduate Center, Buildings, Landscapes and the Representation of Authority on the Eastern Frontier.
- Moderator: Kevin Sweeney, Amherst College
6:30 p.m. Reception and Gala Dinner at the Higgins Armory followed by a round table on New England Begins with:
- David D. Hall, Harvard University
- Jonathan Fairbanks, curator emeritus, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Robert St. George, University of Pennsylvania
- Wendy Kaplan, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- Abbott Lowell Cummings, Charles F. Montgomery Professor Emeritus of American Decorative Arts, Yale University
- Robert Trent, Independent Scholar
Moderator: Jane Kamensky, Brandeis University
Saturday, November 10:
Sessions at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Salisbury Laboratories
9:00 a.m. Session Three: Vision, Memory, and Remembrance
- Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Tokens of Honor and Respect: The Large Funeral in Early New England.
- Katherine Rieder, Harvard University, The Remainder of Our Effects We Must Leave Behind: American Loyalists and the Meaning of Things.
- Aimee E. Newell, National Heritage Museum, Threads of Time: The "Biographical" Needlework of Aging New England Women, 1790-1830.
- Moderator: David Jaffee, CUNY Graduate Center
10:30 a.m. Break
11:00 a.m. Session Four: Animate Objects
- Catherine E. Kelly, University of Oklahoma, The Color of Whiteness: Ivory Portrait Miniatures and the Pictorial Representation of Race.
- Peter Benes, Dublin Seminar for New England Folk Life, "A barbarous branch of art": Waxwork Displays as Popular History.
- Ethan W. Lasser, Chipstone Foundation, Boston's Bombé Furniture and the Maker's Hand.
- Moderator: Edward S. Cooke, Jr., Yale University
2:00 p.m. Session Five: Object, Text and Context
- Jason D. LaFountain, Harvard University, Shining Example, Borrowed Light: Sun and Glittering Gravestones in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut.
- Christopher J. Lukasik, Purdue University, Intermediality and Samuel Hill's Frontispiece to The Power of Sympathy.
- Katherine Stebbins McCaffrey, Boston University, "Hares haeredem": The Spectator, as seen through Samuel Dexter's Spectacles.
- Moderator: Marcy J. Dinius, University of Delaware
3:30 p.m. Session Six: Summation
- Margaretta M. Lovell, University of California at Berkeley and the Mellon Distinguished Scholar at AAS
- Wendy Bellion, University of Delaware
- Summation and Discussion
The registration fee is $25, the cost of Saturday lunch is $12, and the cost of the Friday night banquet is $65.
Registration and payment are due by Friday, October 26, 2007.
A block of rooms is being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Please mention the Colonial Society of Massachusetts when you make your reservation. The telephone number for reservations is (508) 791-1600. The rate is $99 plus tax. The cut-off date is October 29.
Other Worcester hotels include:
- the new Hilton Garden Inn
- Courtyard by Marriott
- Hampton Inn
SponsorThis conference is sponsored by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and the Center for Historic American Visual Culture at the American Antiquarian Society in association with Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Directions and Parking at
On street parking is available on some of the area's side streets. (In the vicinity of AAS, parking is not permitted on Salisbury Street or on Park Ave.) Parking is available at the building marked "Church" on the map available above. (It is the First Baptist Church.) The parking lot is accessed from Salisbury Street not Park Ave. If you are going to park in the First Baptist Chrurch lot, please open and print out a parking permit and post it on your dashboard
On Saturday, there is also parking available at WPI's Higgins House lot, accessible from Salisbury Street, just behind the First Baptist Church.