top of page



An “Unconference” on Objects and Identity in #VastEarlyAmerica

In a commitment to fostering nuanced interpretations of early American objects and meaningful dialogue on historical constructions of race and their legacies, we propose a virtual “unconference” to share and discuss scholarship on the intersections of identity and material culture in #VastEarlyAmerica. These open sessions seek to promote a diverse cross-section of scholarship energized by Dr. Karin Wulf’s call for broader, more inclusive histories of early America


The beauty of material culture is that it often takes non-verbal forms, in the process bearing witness to the lives and experiences of those absent from or written out of traditional archival records. As a participant-driven, virtual conference, we are committed to recovering those stories through object-centered scholarship.

Co-convened by: Cynthia E. Chin (The Washington Library)             and Philippe Halbert (Yale University)

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Twitter

Submissions are Due:

August 1,2020


Virtual Presentation Dates*:

August 24,2020, 1PM EST

August 25,2020, 1PM EST

*Participants will be organized into two groups; please be available for either day


We welcome a variety of approaches and methodologies including historical, art historical, anthropological, archaeological, visual analysis, and experimental/experiential archaeological

Proposal Format:

Proposals should be object - focused, and include a brief abstract describing your research (250 words + one relevant image), along with a short CV of no more than 2 pages. Presentations should be 10 min. w/ slides + 10 min. Q&A


Information regarding audience registration and how to RSVP will be posted soon.


Current grad students, PhDs, ECRs, curators, museum & historic trades interpreters, and independent scholars with a special welcome to BIPOC, #WomenAlsoKnowHistory, and LGBTQ+

Geography &

Time Period:

Early American to 1830, to include North, Central, and South America and the Carribean

Virtual Format:

Via Zoom; approx. 2.5 hours per conference day. Additional information will be provided to participants as the conference approaches. The conference will be conducted in English.



Potential Themes:


  • What's the next chapter in the discussion of race, ethnicity, identity, and early American material culture?

  • What are potential methodological approaches and revisions/additions to existing material culture frameworks? How can #VastEarlyAmerica work to expand the traditional American material culture canon?

  • What were some of the threads or outcomes of the 1619 Project dialogue (and other relevant publications/discussions) that relate/interact/tessellate with material culture studies? How can the 1619 Project and its surrounding narratives broaden the impact of material culture studies?

  • Can the outcomes or discussions surrounding this dialogue engender new approaches/methodologies and discussions in material culture studies? How might it affect the way we as historians and curators interact with and publicly present objects? Does it present the ability to see "legacy" objects and historical figures/narratives differently as a result?

  • Historians and material culture specialists as genealogists: how do our own personal family/ancestral narratives intersect with our study of early American history and material culture; the historian as biographer; the biographical object and the object biography

  • Public history: new thoughts on old things, from the exhibition and display of objects in museum settings to historical and character interpretation, to include historic trades and foodways

  • Object Case Studies: New interpretations of early American objects related to race, ethnicity, and identity

  • The influence of historical anniversaries and commemorations: Jamestown 2007, the New Orleans Tricentennial Commission, Plimoth Patuxet and Mayflower 400, the 500th anniversary of the Spanish invasion of Mexico in 2019 and the 2021 bicentennial of Mexican independence, etc.

  • Others?



Ready to Submit?




crispus attucks teapot.png
bottom of page