DELPHI Participants: 2013 Abstracts
Winterthur Program in American Material Culture (WPAMC)
“Heavenly Handwriting, Teutonic Type: Text as Social Action in German Pennsylvania, c. 1750-1850”
As the second-largest group of European settlers of North America after the British, eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Germans faced challenges reconciling their religious and social perspectives to those of Anglo-Americans. German-speaking Pennsylvanians cultivated handwriting and manuscript illumination traditions that delineated explicit cultural boundaries between Germans and their British-American neighbors. But those traditions also allowed German-speakers to negotiate their contested place in New World society. Through the aesthetics of text and manuscript illumination, Germans fostered positive engagement with Anglo-American society while perpetuating distinctive cultural values. In Heavenly Handwriting, Teutonic Type, Ames will explore how ideologies embedded in handwritten and published Pennsylvania German texts actively shaped early American ethnic, religious, and civic ideologies.
Ames’s work is based on the Frederick S. Weiser collection of Pennsylvania German books, manuscripts, and printed ephemera housed at the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. The project has four objectives. First, Ames hopes to fuse European and American scholarship in publishing and print culture to explore historical antecedents of Pennsylvania German text traditions. Second, he will offer the first wide-ranging study of the aesthetics of Pennsylvania German writing samples. Third, he seeks to ground his cultural-historical analysis in quantitative social science research. Fourth, Ames will catalyze discussions of the state of handwriting and literacy education in twenty-first century schools. His research will undergird advocacy for handwriting education in elementary classrooms. Partnerships with the Winterthur Museum and K-12 teachers will support Ames’ efforts at demonstrating connections between the acts of reading and writing and the structure of human thought.
History of American Civilization
“The Material Culture of Physical Mobility Impairment in America, 1700-1861“
Nicole Belolan’s dissertation probes how early Americans with physical mobility impairments (loss of a physical function of the body due to an amputation or a chronic illness, for example) used objects such as gout cranes and go-chairs to manage their bodies. She is investigating who made these early American objects and how Americans used them within private and public spaces in an era featuring far fewer material “accommodations” than we are accustomed to today. More broadly, Belolan is investigating how the objects, along with their associated impairments, shaped ideas and practices related to gender roles, citizenship, and identity. She is interested in how people experienced living with these impairments as opposed to how society sought to cure them.
During the fellowship period, Belolan will conduct fieldwork at museums, archives, and other repositories to continue her dissertation research in progress on the material culture of mobility impairment. In cooperation with the Winterthur Library, she will create a small exhibition highlighting some of her preliminary findings. This exhibition will also include components making it accessible to people with disabilities. Belolan’s emphasis on the history of the material life of physical mobility impairment complements contemporary society’s emphasis on inclusion in and accessibility to cultural life for people with disabilities.
This British design for a “gouty stool,” along with gout cranes and other furniture forms housed in museum collections and noted in print and manuscript records, gives historians clues as to the range of objects early Americans used to manage physical mobility impairments. “Gouty Stool” [detail], Plate 15, in A. Hepplewhite and Co., The cabinet-maker and upholsterer’s guide; or, Repository of designs for every article of household furniture in the newest and most approved taste… 3rd. ed., improved (London: I. and J. Taylor, 1794). Winterthur Library: Printed Books and Periodicals Collection.
Shannon A. Brogdon-Grantham
Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation
“Engaging the Community: A Three Part Goal”
The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Photograph Archives Collection has approximately 35,000 photographs from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries in the form of cased objects, photographic prints, and negatives. Their collection is home to some of the most well-known images of Native peoples across the Americas, some of the most beautiful images of the American Southwest, and some of the most compelling photographs created by Native American photographers. Their storage facility, located just outside of Washington, D.C. in Suitland, Maryland houses the entire photograph collection in state-of-the-art cold and cool storage facilities, which helps to extend the lifetime of these vulnerable objects.
Brogdon-Grantham will be interning in the Photograph Archives of the NMAI during the summer of 2013 and during this internship she will work closely with the Photograph Archivist, Heather Shannon to rehouse photographs from their oversize collection and devise a protocol for future rehousing projects. The goal of the internship is to make the collection more accessible to researchers and the public. In addition, to further engage the community she and Heather will co-author blog postings for the NMAI blog as a way to highlight the unique photographic holdings of the museum.
Later in the summer, Brogdon-Grantham will lead a workshop to middle and high school aged children on photograph preservation of their family photographs. In the fall semester, Brogdon-Grantham plans to present a talk at her undergraduate alma mater, Spelman College, on art conservation as a viable career option for students majoring in art and chemistry.
Department of History/ Hagley Program
“Home Alteration in Industrial Philadelphia, 1865 to 1925”
Amanda Casper’s dissertation examines the material, legal, and social history of home alteration in Philadelphia between 1865 and 1925. During this period, Americans feverously tacked on balloon-frame additions, rearranged interiors, modified exteriors, updated kitchens, and finagled in complex utilities; yet we know little about the look and feel of that experience.
This project begins with ordinary people and their private choices, yet Casper demonstrates how the seemingly mundane act of alteration drew broader concern from professionals, reformers, regulators, and tastemakers. Alteration is a useful way for understanding the ways in which people engaged a complicated system of commerce, followed municipal regulation, listened to marketers and designers, and strategically accepted innovations. It also is a unique lens for examining how people coped during a period of rapid change in urban growth, regulation, industrialization, and consumerism.
Funding from the University of Delaware DelPHI program will be used to conduct fieldwork and archival research on six blocks in Philadelphia, comprising nearly 250 houses from six building projects. Casper will trace the modifications of each property using permit records, insurance surveys, and fieldwork. To contextualize the alterations, Casper will survey census data and trace chain of titles, using that information to help explain why people made alterations. The archival and material data gathered over the summer will compose a series of case studies documenting home alteration and the families behind the projects for her dissertation.
For more information about the dissertation project, see Casper’s dissertation blog at: https://homealterationhistory.wordpress.com/.
Nicole Elizabeth Cook
Department of Art History
“Drawing Beauty From Shadows: Godfried Schalcken and His Erotic Candlelit Paintings”
Cook is investigating Dutch painter Godfried Schalcken (1641-1706), who worked during the end of the ‘Dutch Golden Age.’ In particular, she is concerned with the ways that Schalcken represented beauty, eroticism, and sexuality in small, intimate genre paintings.
As seen in this example, Schalcken uses darkened candlelit settings to create a sensual, voyeuristic viewing experience, muting his palette so that the figures and their actions slowly reveal themselves to the viewer. This summer, Cook will explore how his workshop practice and artistic process contribute to the erotic pleasure of his works by examining technical studies, engaging with conservators, and working closely with Schalcken’s paintings. She will also research the material objects—such as the statuary and delicate oil lamp in this painting—that Schalcken depicts in order to analyze how the artist may have selected such pieces specifically for their erotic charge in the late seventeenth-century Netherlands.Contemporary printmakers rendered several of Schalcken’s most famous genre scenes in print, increasing the circulation of his work and in many cases heightening the erotic nature of his original scenes. Cook will compare the reception of Schalcken’s paintings and the prints made after them, considering how the print’s position as a less expensive and more private object may have altered its erotic potential. Finally, Cook is analyzing how these paintings and prints circulated in late seventeenth-century Dutch culture, where quickly changing moral codes generated ongoing tensions between the rise of frankly sexual texts and images and ensuing condemnation and censorship.
Elisabeth Berry Drago
Department of Art History
“Thomas Wijck’s Painted Alchemists at the Intersection of Art, Science and
The rise of images of alchemists at work in the laboratory during the seventeenth century, particularly in the Dutch Republic, speaks to an increased interest in the developing sciences. Yet these images often touch on myths and preconceptions regarding the nature of alchemy, presenting it variously as studious pursuit, fool’s quest, occult discipline or experimental material science. Thomas Wijck (1616-1677), for whom alchemists were a life-long subject, depicted a range of alchemical practices, from the writing of treatises, to the distilling of substances and the instruction of apprentices. These practices also share certain features with the workshop traditions of early modern painters, who performed their own transformations and imitations of nature. The naturalism of Wijck’s images, and their inclusion of period-accurate equipment, suggest that Wijck had first-hand knowledge of alchemical work. The complexity of these images, and their role in a culture which viewed both art and science with delight and skepticism, calls for a new exploration of Wijck’s methods and meanings.
Berry Drago’s work argues that artists and alchemists, both involved in the transformation and replication of nature, share a connection through the studio and laboratory. In addition to iconographical and historical concerns, this project will center on the paintings of Wijck as transformative objects produced in a studio-workshop: their raw materials, pigments, and chemical components will provide information on the working methods of Wijck and the connections between artistic and alchemical practices.
Michael J. Emmons, Jr.
Center for Historic Architecture and Design
“‘A Mingling of Both’: The Rise of the ‘Urban’ Country House”
While documenting the H. Fletcher Brown mansion in Wilmington last fall, Emmons discovered that the property exhibited many characteristics common to the “country house movement,” which was at its height when the mansion was built in 1917. Yet the Brown mansion is located decidedly in the city, on a comparatively small parcel. This prompted him to ask, were country houses built in the city? At first glance the idea of an “urban” country house might seem counter intuitive. Yet from roughly 1890 to 1930, the country house movement was a self-conscious phenomenon, with period publications examining the architecture, gardens, furnishings, and lifestyle of country house owners. These taste-making publications promoted a broad “country house” lifestyle that inspired home builders to imitate the country estates and gardens of their contemporaries, while not quite achieving their grandiosity.
The primary goal of Emmons’s summer research is to produce a written context for these properties in Wilmington and to create a methodology for evaluating their significance. To accomplish this, he plans to locate, catalogue, and study additional urban country houses in Wilmington. At the same time, he will pursue an intensive study of period architecture books and magazines to understand the essence of the country house movement—including trends that influenced how owners built, decorated, and used their country houses. Primary source records like wills, census returns, and tax assessments will shed light on the people of Wilmington who built these urban country houses—advancing our understanding of this fascinating, but understudied, building type.
Philippe L.B. Halbert
Winterthur Program in American Material Culture
“Noblesse in New France: Furnishing the Château Saint-Louis and the Hôtel de Vaudreuil, 1725-1760 ”
In ancien régime France, noblemen and women used architecture and a variety of material goods to convey social identity and consolidate civil authority. Distance from Paris or Versailles was not synonymous with ignorance of fashion among the nobility and aspiring elites, even in the colonies. Archaeological excavations, documentary evidence, and surviving furnishings attest to the sumptuous atmosphere of colonial residences occupied by the governor-generals of New France. Doubling as private homes for the vice-royal family and settings for public ceremony and political display, the château Saint-Louis in Québec and the hôtel de Vaudreuil in Montréal boasted interiors that celebrated their inhabitants’ rank and position as much as their exteriors did. The very terms used to refer to these buildings in period references- château, or castle, and hôtel, a grand private townhouse- underscore the prestige that they embodied in the urban landscape of French colonial Canada.
These structures did not survive fire and urban development in the early nineteenth century. Armed with floor plans, architectural drawings, period correspondence, and notarial records including probate inventories for the marquis de Vaudreuil and the marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal, Halbert will reconstruct the ambiance of spaces ranging from elegantly appointed salons to servants’ quarters. Through close scrutiny of extant objects and field study in Québec and France, he hopes to better understand the nature of aristocratic society, material culture, and domestic life in New France, specifically Canada under the French regime.
Department of History/American Civilization Program
“Consuming Goods, Producing Value: Women’s Shopping in the Mid Atlantic, 1750-1815”
In her dissertation research, Jones examines the role of women’s consumption in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century mid Atlantic, utilizing methodologies from both economic history and material culture studies. Her objective is to situate shopping as a form of unpaid work necessary to the development of the early American economy and the functioning of individual households, a type of labor that required knowledge about price, availability, and quality of consumer goods. She argues that female shoppers and shopkeepers created networks within and across class distinctions, in which they exchanged gendered knowledge about the economic and social values of goods. Jones examines shopping as a form of emotional care performed by women for relatives and friends as well as an economic activity essential to family survival, necessity, and sometimes comfort.
Jones will engage with much of the scholarship on early American consumption and consumables, treating objects as reflections of individual taste, embodiments of emotional relationships, and repositories of exchange value that could re-enter the market for quick cash. But her research also extends beyond the point of purchase to analyze how women transformed unfinished commercial goods into fully-consumable products and what happened when these objects re-entered the market through pawnshops and vendues, or public auctions. During the fellowship period, she will study objects related to women’s consumption, such as pocketbooks and reticules, but also examine a wide range of household objects used to process raw materials, ease the chores of household maintenance, and embody both short- and long-term value for families.
“Conservation Engagement: Outreach through Education”
During summer 2013, Ronel Namde will be working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. She will be working largely on the housing and preservation of photographic materials, exhibit rotation and maintenance, public education, and the creation of content for the new USHMM Conservation web presence. Additionally, Namde hopes to arrange opportunities for working with the website, public education (adults and K-12), interaction with the public during the exhibit rotations, as well as the possibility of a Facebook post and a YouTube video on the USHMM Facebook about the conservation of photographic albums for the museum. Her work with the conservation and preservation of albums will provide good outreach content to add to the main USHMM Facebook This will help make conservation at the museum more visible. Moreover, she will be engaging the public more through the creation of the Conservation Department’s new web presence. Namde’s work this summer will not only help significantly with the preservation of objects from the Museum’s collections, but also ensure the increased visibility of the Department throughout the world via the internet.
While in Washington, DC this summer, Namde will also be visiting numerous other institutions, physically and digitally, to look at their conservation facilities, their outreach activities, and the way they present themselves and their work in their web presences.
Department of English
“Tears, Clothes, and Livery in the Book of Margery Kempe“
How did people of the late middle ages “read” clothes? New technologies in textile and garment production facilitated greater varieties of clothing that not only helped to elevate the ever growing merchant middle class, but also blurred the distinctions between individuals across all classes, challenging traditional interpretations of attire. Fancier, more costly clothes could say a lot about the social ambitions of the wearer, and perhaps more importantly, the wearer’s soul.
Parkin’s research explores the Book of Margery Kempe to consider one woman’s struggle with this changing sartorial system. Born into a wealthy merchant family, Margery describes her experiences and world through her most familiar set of goods—clothes. By reading her movement from flashy cloaks and horned hats to more spiritual attire like hair shirts and white gowns, we can come to better understand how clothing and textiles imposed meaning upon their owners as well as the increased difficultly of using garments as reliable social markers. In addition, Parkin’s work posits that tears, one of the most memorable and important objects in Margery’s narrative, functioned as fashion accessories. These tears, publically wept throughout Margery’s travels around England, continental Europe and the Holy Land, confuse onlookers who interpret them as everything from evidence of sainthood to heresy. Bartered, bought, and worn, these ephemeral goods acted as a form of livery that aligned Margery to Christ’s household.
American Civilization Program
Department of History
“Birthplaces of a Nation: Public Commemorations of American Origins in the Early 20th Century”
In her dissertation research, Reilly explores the creation of memorial landscapes at the sites of the Jamestown, Plymouth, and New Sweden colonies. By celebrating the three-hundredth anniversaries of these settlements, political and cultural leaders sought to foster a sense of shared national identity. They erected monuments, redesigned the area around the landing sites, and encouraged the public to interact with these physical places. Reilly investigates the motives of the commemorators and how their twentieth-century concerns influenced the design and construction of these memorials and the landscapes surrounding them. By examining the way people memorialized the colonies in the early 20th century, she hopes to help the public understand the landscapes around them and to consider how they will commemorate these same events in the early 21st century.
During the fellowship period, Reilly will travel to Virginia and conduct research on the 1907 Jamestown tercentenary, primarily at the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. The memorialization of the 1607 landing at Jamestown involved two groups of commemorators.
Traditionalists focused on the preservation of the physical remains of the colony. Boosters organized an international exhibition in the Hampton Roads area, using the anniversary as publicity for the state’s military and commercial centers. Reilly will investigate the material choices involved with the creation of the memorial landscape on Jamestown Island and the exhibition halls and fairgrounds in Norfolk.
Carrie Mae Smith
Department of Art
“A Chair of Her Own: Re-visioning Historic Birthing Chairs”
Smith’s work interprets the body’s relationship to historic cultural forms and the biases inherent in that relationship. She investigates marginalized histories and how inequality materializes in objects and architectural spaces. Cultural ideologies are embedded in objects that support the most basic functions of the human body. By questioning these ideologies and analyzing objects based on their craft and functionality, Smith’s research inspires a new repositioning of history through visual and semiotic relationships, images, objects and architectural spaces.
Smith is specifically interested in the birthing chair and the historical practices of parturition. Her research has focused on understanding birthing chairs as physical objects, understanding their dimensional orientation and how they fit together with the women who used them. She re-creates physical examples of these historic objects paying special attention to their construction and weaving into their fabrication the social and cultural relationships that they engender.
Through all forms of visual and sculptural art making, woodworking, metal smithing and fabric-construction, Smith’s research will culminate by bringing into existence a physical replication of the material history of the birthing chair. This body of work will not only educate the viewer about the different shapes and sizes of birthing chairs from the past, but it will also mark the changes that reflect the evolution of thought and cultural ideologies surrounding birth. These forms will provide viewers the opportunity to question cultural myths surrounding birth and give context to our contemporary understanding of the birthing process.
Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC)
“Presenting Preservation: Paper Conservation and Public Outreach”
While most visitors understand the role of museums in the presentation and interpretation of objects of artistic and historic significance, they are often less aware of a museum’s role in the preservation of material culture. Many of the materials that comprise these objects are sensitive to prolonged light exposure, changes in humidity and temperature, pests, and mishandling. Increasingly, it is the role of the conservator to educate the public, non-specialists, and members of allied professions about these risks to ensure the long-term survival of our cultural heritage.
This summer, Sullivan will complete an internship at the Lunder Conservation Center at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a visible conservation facility with glass walls that affords museum visitors a glimpse into the work of a conservator. Her internship will focus specifically on conservation issues associated with paper artifacts, their display, and the long-term benefits of storage in a controlled environment. As most everyone possesses some collection of paper-based materials—letters, scrapbooks, and ehemera—visible paper conservation offers a unique opportunity to engage with the public about the risks facing collections, measures to prevent damage to objects of cultural or personal value, and the actions trained conservation professionals must take to preserve deteriorated works of art.
In response to her experience this summer, Sullivan will develop an electronic guide to aid conservators in discussing and promoting their work to a non-specialist audience. This guide will be offered in a printable format on the American Institute for Conservation’s website for conservators to download and distribute when speaking with the general public or to accompany visible conservation exhibitions.
Department of Art History
“John Storrs’s Sculpture: Photographs in the Little Review and Exhibition at the Société Anonyme”
In early 1923, the avant-garde poetry magazine The Little Review published five photographs of sculpture by the American artist John Storrs (1885-1956). At the same time, the Société Anonyme, Inc., an “experimental museum” in New York City, was exhibiting the artist’s work. Comparing the photographs Storrs sent to the magazine with the sculpture in the exhibition reveals that the uncaptioned images in The Little Review deliberately court ambiguity, neglecting to communicate salient features of the artwork they are said to reproduce. For example, small sculptures loom large, forms are inverted, and black and white areas are reversed. The Dada-like gesture of these photographs fits uneasily within the accepted narrative of the artist’s evolution toward the rational, architectonic forms of the machine age.
Wurzelbacher investigates these photographs to probe the motivations and implications of Storrs’s unusual submission to The Little Review. This summer she will examine the sculptures, original photographs, and printed magazine firsthand, in conjunction with archival documents at the Archives of American Art and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, to unravel the visual puzzle Storrs orchestrated for viewers in 1923.