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W. D. Kingery
Smithsonian, Jan 17, 1996 - Social Science - 262 pages
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Learning from Things presents the methods and theories underlying the many ways in which material objects - things of all kinds from all periods of history - can reconstruct and interpret lifeways of the past. This collection of essays links material culture studies with art history and the history of technology, as well as with archaeology, anthropology, cultural geography, folklore studies, and other fields that use material evidence. The thirteen contributors - among them Jules D. Prown, Don D. Fowler, Steven Lubar, Joseph J. Corn, and Michael B. Schiffer - examine both the processes of forming historical and archaeological records and collections and how those processes influence, and even distort, conclusions made by scholars. The book also deals with the role of optical and electron microscopy, radiocarbon dating, and other tools of material science in material culture studies. Citing various processes - from microwear analysis of Paleolithic stone tool surfaces to the impact of mechanized metal cutting on nineteenth-century gun production - the contributors argue the importance of multidisciplinary participation for accurately analyzing objects. Bringing together the approaches of both "hard" systematic scholars and "soft" humanists concerned with aesthetics and cultural belief systems, the book provides a foundation for the further evolution of material culture studies.

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