American Material Culture

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Foreign:$ 47.7 k / Year(s) Deadline: Jan 16, 2025
301–350 place StudyQA ranking:2928 Duration:2 years

Photos of university / #udelaware

The Winterthur Program in American Material Culture is a two year program leading to a Master of Arts. The Program provides a multidisciplinary approach to the study of American decorative arts and material culture. Material culture is the history and philosophy of people and their things. The Program is a cooperative effort of the Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library and the University. Related areas are American fine and decorative arts, social and cultural history, literature, and museum studies. Program faculty combine concepts from the humanities with those of the social sciences to explore the ways material culture functions as a nonverbal means of communication. The Program teaches research strategies for analyzing materials, processes, and design, and for interpreting their cultural meanings and contexts. Resources include the extraordinary object and library collections at the Museum, special collections – including digital media – at the University, and field study in the U.S. and abroad.


The Winterthur Program has always taken an interdisciplinary approach to the study of material culture. The Program requires 42 credit hours of graduate coursework at the 600 to 800 levels. The 42 credit hours include 24 credits of core courses and 18 hours of other courses approved by the Program’s Director.


The core courses in Connoisseurship teach Fellows how to look at objects. Other core courses expand upon the object-centered methodology of the connoisseurship courses. All Fellows take Material Life in America in the fall semester of their first year. During this course, they work with collection objects, primary documents, and important theoretical and secondary literature. Examples of the research that Fellows produce in this class are published online on the Material Matters website. In January of the first year, all students study English Design History, to help connect the broad currents of American design with English and European foundations. The capstone experience is the master’s thesis.

Required Core Courses:

  • EAMC 601, Introduction to Decorative Arts in America to 1860 (Summer Institute)* (3cr)
  • EAMC 602, Material Life in America (3cr)
  • EAMC 607, English Design History, 1530-1930**  (3cr)
  • EAMC 671, Connoisseurship I (3cr)
  • EAMC 672, Connoisseurship II (3cr)
  • EAMC 673, Connoisseurship III (3cr)
  • EAMC 869, Thesis Research (6cr)

* Registered in the Fall Semester

** Registered in the Spring Semester


As part of their elective coursework, Fellows must fulfill a Distribution Requirement. Fellows are required to take two graduate seminars in two different academic disciplines (6 credits total) at the University of Delaware. These two courses are generally in the Departments of Art History, English, or History. With permission of the Director, Fellows may also fulfill their distribution requirement with courses in other disciplines (examples include Anthropology, Sociology, and Art Conservation).

Fellows also select 4 elective courses based on their career and intellectual goals. These can be any course at the University of Delaware in the 600-800 level. To gain a better idea of the elective courses that could be taught, we recommend that you read our Faculty and Affiliated Faculty bios. Students can choose from material-culture related courses in the fields of:

  • Anthropology
  • Art
  • Art Conservation
  • Art History
  • Center for Historic Architecture and Design
  • Black American Studies
  • English
  • History
  • Museum Studies
  • Sociology
  • Urban Affairs and Public Policy
  • Women & Gender Studies

Elective courses vary according to a Professor’s field of specialty and will vary from year to year and semester to semester. University Faculty and staff also offer a number of experimental courses that have not yet attained permanent numbers.

The Director’s office attempts to project course offerings at least a year ahead. We cannot guaranty, however, that all courses will be offered during a student’s two years of study as faculty go on sabbatical, or research leave, or the course schedule may conflict with a required course. Finally, course offerings are subject to change as faculty members retire or new ones are hired. 

  • University of Delaware Graduate Admission Application and Fee
  • Graduate Application Essay
    ⋅  Articulate your educational aspirations, career goals and expectations for how this degree will help you achieve your objectives. Are there areas of special interest to you?
  • Academic Writing Sample
    ⋅  Please upload a complete academic paper that demonstrates your ability to use evidence, interpret it, and frame an argument. The Winterthur Program requests a minimum length of 7 pages to a maximum length of 20 pages.
    Note that any document uploaded to your application can be no larger than 2.5 MB. If your file exceeds that size, you may want to reduce the file size by scanning at a lower resolution. If you are unable to reduce the file size, email and ask for instructions on how to proceed.
  • Three Letters of Recommendation from three professors who know your academic or professional work
  • Graduate Record Examination Scores
    ⋅  General Test Code for UD is 5811
    ⋅  Note that GRE tests taken after November 1, 2016 may not meet our deadline.
  • Curriculum vitae / resume
  • Unofficial Transcript(s) of your academic record from each college or university attended
  • Personal Information / Short Essay Supplemental Form (This 2-page on-line form is part of the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program online application form at: Please fill out on-line, save a copy for your records, and upload as directed.)

All materials must be submitted by Monday, January 16, 2017 (11:59 PM, EST) for admission beginning mid-July 2017 for the Program’s Summer Institute at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library.


Test Scores:
An official copy of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores must be submitted. The ETS University of Delaware institution code is “5811“. You only need to submit the University code of 5811. No department code is needed for our institution. GRE scores are valid only if they have been taken within the last 5 years. Please allow 4-6 weeks from your test date to the date your score will be received by the University of Delaware. Given the number of holidays in the latter part of the year, it is recommended that you schedule your GRE test before November 1, to be received by the January 16th deadline of application materials.  In the case of a student for whom English is not the first language, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores may be substituted for the verbal score to calculate the minimum GRE total.

Successful applicants must participate in Interview Weekend, conducted by the Executive Committee of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture and normally held over three days during the second weekend in March at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Reasonable costs for travel and lodging to attend Interview Weekend are paid for by the Winterthur Program.


When admitted into the Winterthur Program, students become Lois F. McNeil Fellowship recipients. These Fellowships are made possible by the generosity of the McNeil family. While the Fellowship is subject to change, it is based on the costs of living in the Greater Wilmington Area, and is usually adequate to cover Fellows’ room and board. As of September 2015, the stipend was $19,500 per year. Pending “satisfactory progress,” students will receive the equivalent of 23 months support. Fellows ordinarily complete all their requirements during this period and there is no provision for support beyond that time frame.

Outside of the stipend, tuition fees are entirely covered, meaning that Fellows only have to pay student fees each semester. As of September, 2015, these roughly amounted to $500 each semester, or $600 for international students. Additional costs may include health care if the student chooses to be covered under the University, or in the case of international students, when they must be covered under the University health-care policy. But, because Fellows are categorized as contracted graduate students, the cost is about $80 per year for the University health insurance (without dental or eye care).

All field-based learning trips are covered by the Program, with the exception of personal expenses and some meals.

  • Decorative Arts Trust Summer Research Grants
  • UD Collection-Based Research Grant Program
  • Delaware Public Humanities Institute (DELPHI)
  • Friends of Rockwood Graduate Research Fund
  • Professional Development Awards
  • Society of Winterthur Fellows (SOWF) Professional Development Funds
  • Winterthur Program Professional Development Funds
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