ThingStor: A Material Culture Database for Finding Objects in Literature & Visual Art

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ThingStor began in a graduate seminar. Dr. Martin Brückner’s “Introduction to Theories of Material Culture Studies” is a cross-listed graduate course that brings together students from Art History, English, Museum Studies, and more to discuss the theory and practice of material culture research. Students study everything from ThingTheory to Vibrant Materialisms and learn how to approach their own research interests through considerations of objects, materials, and Things. But researching objects (especially representational objects, such as those in literature) can be an overwhelming task. So many contexts, histories, and methodologies to consider. The class decided to brainstorm tools that they wished existed to help in the research process.  That is where the idea for an “Object Database” came to fruition.

ThingStor is a material culture database for finding objects in literature and visual art. Database entries are crowdsourced, and information is vetted by a dedicated team of graduate students from across the humanities at University of Delaware. ThingStor connects object references from literature and visual art to researched object descriptions, representative visual illustrations, and a host of other source information, including: historical context, critical analysis, and critical secondary sources. Rather than a “top-down” or static educational tool, the ThingStor database aims to be an ever-evolving and collaborative effort between material culture students, scholars, and faculty across disciplines.

In collaboration with the Center for Material Culture Studies and the University of Delaware Library, ThingStor is finally becoming a reality. In 2016, a graduate student working group began working together to create a website proto-type and data-collection procedure. Today, the project is in the initial stages of data-collection with the launch of the “WANTED: 1,000 OBJECTS” initiative. For more information, or to join the ThingStor Working Group, contact Dr. Martin Brückner at materialculture@udel.edu.

ThingStor Working Group
Dr. Martin Brückner
Petra Clark
Michael Doss
Sarah Leonard
Samanatha Nystrom
Rebecca Olsen
Victoria Sunnergren
Jessica Venturi

Other Contributors
Natalia Lopez
Eileen Moscoco