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Cultural Historians Toolbox (PhD Core Course 2): Material & Visual Culture



This hands-on, interactive course for PhD candidates (also open to RMA students) consists of 3 sessions and focuses on material objects as sources for cultural/historical research. We discuss key theoretical concepts of working with material objects and engage in some hands-on work. Each session highlights a particular theme and related methodologies:

(1) Life of Things: Object Biography as Conceptual Approach

(2) Caring and Making: Conservation and Reconstruction of Objects and Practices

(3) Contested Objects: Politics of Ownership


Learning objectives:

  • How and why material objects can be used as relevant research sources
  • Insight into the types of knowledge connected to Visual & Material Culture, including tacit knowledge, sensory knowledge, as well as the political, social, economic dimensions of objects.
  • Gaining (limited) experience in hands-on object research
  • Understanding how you can use material objects, and results from reconstruction and conservation research in your personal research


Preliminary Schedule:

12 November, 12-17.00

University of Amsterdam & Ateliergebouw/Rijksmuseum

Introductory lecture prof. Ann-Sophie Lehmann, presentation by participants & close readings, guided tour Ateliergebouw with prof. Maartje Stols-Witlox


10 December, 11.30-17.00

University of Groningen/University Museum Groningen

close readings
guests: prof. Andrew Irving & prof. Joost Keizer on the Van der Leeuw Collection; Eva Waterbolk on a collection of skulls.

Each session is prepared by reading and annotating 1-3 texts and by a short assignment such as an object analysis, an ethnographic exercise, or a reconstruction. Together, these assignments together with active participation form the basis for the grade/awarding of EC. Preferably, you work with objects related to your research interest/research project.


14 January, 13-17.00

Utrecht University, Drift 23, room 0.10

hands-on component, presentation by participants & close readings
guest: Lisa Wiersma, MA, on reconstruction as research practice



Register (0/17 spaces left)

This course is fully booked. For a spot on the waiting list, contact