At the conclusion of the first Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars in 2003, J. Ritchie Garrison remarked that when he was an “emerging” scholar of material culture in the late 1970s, “material culture seemed like a warm spring day.” The scholarship presented at this symposium over the past ten years embodies the spirit of that statement: material culture scholars continue to probe what American Studies scholar Thomas J. Schlereth called “culture behind the material” in new and exciting ways for their colleagues and for the public alike.
Zara Anishanslin, now Assistant Professor of History at The College of Staten Island, CUNY, spearheaded the first Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars when she was a Ph.D. candidate in the American Civilization Program at UD. She recently remarked that “Nothing prepares…junior scholars for the rigors of academic public performance like presenting papers, and one of the ideas behind our symposium was to allow grad students to present their work in an environment expressly made for them, and thus less fraught with pressure.” Here, emerging scholars and their work take center stage, and their peers and established scholars in the field listen, respond, and draw inspiration for their own work. As Zara suggested, symposia such as this one provide a “refuge,” but they also provide room to grow.
As the papers presented at the 2012 conference and published in this online forum attest, the day is still warm for material culture.