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Program in Material Culture & Public History

Sponsored by the National Institute of American History & Democracy (NIAHD), a joint project of William & Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Program in Material Culture & Public History provides an interdisciplinary approach to early America, material culture, and the purpose and operation of museums.

HIST 212-08 Students at Colonial Williamsburg
Students in Dr. Sarah McCartney's History 212-08 class "History of Garbage" visited the Custis Square Archaeology Project to learn about the work being done by the archaeology department at Colonial Williamsburg. As long as people have been making things, people have been throwing things away. "History of Garbage" is sponsored by NIAHD, and engages with the theme of “Sustainability” in both the past and present. Students examine, compare, and critique historical treatments of material waste and the repurposing of discarded materials on a local and global level with particular attention to the Americas and the Atlantic World.


NIAHD's Program in Material Culture & Public History is available to William & Mary undergraduates in any major, as well as to graduate and professional students. The program provides a thorough grounding in the ways in which scholars from many disciplines study early America and material culture, and the equally diverse ways in which they disseminate the findings to public and academic audiences through media as diverse as print, film, exhibitions, and museum interpretations. NIAHD will award a certificate upon completion of all program requirements.

The program began in the fall of 2002 as an experimental pilot project for William & Mary students. Now, all W&M students are invited to join NIAHD anytime during their academic career at the College. For more information, contact us by [[niahd,email]] or by telephone at (757) 221-7652.

In the fall of 2005, the program was opened to students from other colleges and universities who would like to study with NIAHD in Williamsburg for a semester or for an academic year. Visiting Students may also contact us by [[w|niahd,email]] or by telephone at (757) 221-7652.

Williamsburg as a Research Center

William & Mary has a strong national reputation for the study of early America in all its dimensions, with distinguished faculty in History, American Studies, and Anthropology. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the largest outdoor history museum in the United States and possesses one of the world's finest collections of early American objects. Its curators, historians, archaeologists, and interpreters have wide-ranging interests and have a deep commitment to public education. A number of members in the research and curatorial departments command national attention in their fields and provide scholarly knowledge in specialties such as architectural history, museum education, and decorative arts. The program takes advantage of the strengths of both parent institutions to provide an educational experience that has no equal at any other university or historical site.

Two Architectural History Students