A thing to many ; A milestone to others

A Thing to Many; A Milestone to Others

By Daniel Paniagua

 

An individual acquires a lot of possessions over time. Some of them are tools used for everyday living, such as kitchen utensils and hammers; others are luxury items like jewelry and expensive branded clothing. All other things fall somewhere in between. Society has setup norms for what an item means and its function. People sometimes follow these norms unconsciously, so people often consume similar items as everyone else. For example, why do people wear jewelry and own TVs? While this underlying norm that guides people into buying certain things is important and very strong, sometimes an item is transformed into much more than what the normal person understands it for. For that individual, his or her personal item is much more than what it was designed to be or do. This is because emotion becomes infused in these objects, giving them much more value.

Ann Cvetkovich explains in, “In the Archives of Lesbian Feelings: Documentary and Popular Culture,” the idea of an archive of emotion. This goes against a traditional archive where an item is obviously very strong and prominent in an historical way, such as a document by a president or other important person. An archive of emotion is the opposite. It’s just a normal item that has an emotional attachment that then gives it significance. This is the same way many people’s prized possessions  have value. Such as an ordinary baseball, that is passed from generation to generation, or a stuffed animal with an extreme emotional value. One huge emotional attachment is that these items represent a milestone. These items capture and represent an accomplishment and the journey it took to get there. An example we saw in class was the documentary Queen of Versailles starring David Siegel. In the documentary, David Siegel is in the process of constructing his mega-mansion nicknamed Versailles. It is obvious a mansion represents wealth, power, and success and anyone would be proud to own one, but to David Siegel it is worth even more. His mansion is to be a milestone. The journey of his business life has led him to build that mansion. It stands for more than just power and wealth to him. It stands for his personal accomplishment and that reason is why he is so reluctant to let it go. With emotions anything can be transformed into a priceless piece.

 

SEIKO Chronograph Watch

This is my SEIKO watch. I purchased this watch during senior year of highschool. At the time it was worth $500, but I had made a good amount of money through eBay merchanting to afford it. I didn’t have a job, so it was an accomplishment to be able to afford it. This was also my first major purchase with money I had worked for myself. To many people it’s just a watch, but to me it is more and I will never sell it. It’s a milestone for an accomplishment and I wear it proudly everyday. I also treat it as a “first of many” or “the beginning of something great.” Watches are luxury items and can exceed millions of dollars in price. They are often a measure of someone’s success (“Look at that guy’s Rolex,” for example). But to me, I treat the watch more as the beginning of my success, and to remind me that I have a long way to go before I can afford that Rolex and have it next to this watch.

1993 Ford Ranger

This is my 1993 Ford Ranger. This car is my first car that I purchased with money I had saved up from working. Like many people, their first car is very meaningful, even though it is not worth much. I chose this as one object, because I believe that many people have this feeling towards their first car. No one ever forgets their first car and sometimes even it was horrible, people have soft spots and miss their car later in life. Again, this is because a first car captures an accomplishment; many actually. Learning to drive, affording your own car, and the beginning of becoming an individual adult. These emotions can cause a person to value something as much higher than what it means to others.

 

Wooden Model of a Typical Colombian Jeep Carrying Coffee

This is a souvenir I picked up in Colombia when I visited when I was 10 years old. Brand new, this thing was probably worth $3 but it’s worth much more in emotion. This reminds me of where my family is from and my visit to Colombia. I wouldn’t sell it for anything. This is much like an “archive of emotion.” The item itself is not worth much, but the emotions and feelings are priceless.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

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Values on Display: How I Let My Clothes Speak For Me

by Sara Ziegler

Material culture is defined by historian Jules Prown as “the study through artifacts of the beliefs – values, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions – of a particular community or society at a given time.” In studying artifacts, often the connection between the object and its significance is not clear. Ephemera is a “term used by archivists and librarians to describe occasional publications and paper documents, material objects, or items that fall into the miscellaneous category when catalogued” (Cvetkovich 111). Ann Cvetkovich describes how ephemeral, seemingly meaningless objects can become of significant value when one is trying to archive emotions and feelings, such as those feelings associated with lesbian history. In this case, meaning is derived through affects – “associated with nostalgia, personal memory, fantasy, and trauma” (112). It is in this way – through archiving seemingly mundane objects – that I will attempt to document some aspects of my own material culture.

This dress was purchased for me by my mother when I was in high school. It is white, lacy, not too short or low-cut, but still flattering. It is ultimately “feminine”. I bought it because I wanted to look like Taylor Swift, and because I was caught up in an obsession that has plagued American society for as long as we've been a country.

This dress was purchased for me by my mother when I was in high school. It is white, lacy, not too short or low-cut, but still flattering. It is ultimately “feminine”. I bought it because I wanted to look like Taylor Swift, and because I was caught up in an obsession that has plagued American society for as long as we’ve been a country.

 The first object that I have chosen to document is the above white dress. In “The Cult of True Womanhood”, Barbara Welter argues that 19th century women were expected to possess the values of piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity (152). I believe these values are still present in current American society, and that they have very harmful effects on young girls. From believing that women should be not only more pious than their male counterparts, but also responsible for male morality (an idea that ties into rape culture and allows us to all too often blame the victim), to believing that females should be pure (which feeds the double standard present with regards to male/female sexuality), the ideas of “True Womanhood” are still, unfortunately present. It can be seen in The Queen of Versailles in the enthusiasm surrounding the Miss America Pageants, a tradition that has always placed value in purity, and virginity in young girls, while still of course expecting that they are physically appealing. It was also the sentiment behind my white dress, which is in a way, as the commodification of these values, a good that was purchased in their honor.

Since coming to college, I have long abandoned my desire to be perceived as “pure.” In fact, I would consider my own material culture now to be one of dissent. In my head, I have sort of developed the idea that whatever I should be consuming (what typical middle class white girls that go to Rutgers consume), I want nothing to do with. I buy only used clothing, and avoid at all costs: North Face fleeces, Ugg boots, anything with a spirit R, etc. I take great pride in incorporating into my outfits clothes typically worn by: boys, old ladies, racial minorities, etc.

I got Timberland boots because I typically saw them being worn by African American males, or men working in manual labor. I have worn them every day, without fail, since I got them over a year ago. They are filthy, smelly, tough and when I wear them I walk down the street with a great sense of pride. If there is one object I would like to speak for me, it is my shoes. Yet, this in itself seems hypocritical, because I am not a male construction worker, and never will be.

I got Timberland boots because I typically saw them being worn by African American males, or men working in manual labor. I have worn them every day, without fail, since I got them over a year ago. They are filthy, smelly, tough and when I wear them I walk down the street with a great sense of pride. If there is one object I would like to speak for me, it is my shoes. Yet, this in itself seems hypocritical, because I am not a male construction worker, and never will be.

 In a way I may be using this object because I am ashamed of my own privilege as white and middle-class. Either way, perhaps not much has changed since high school after all: I still use consumer goods to display my values and beliefs.

These are just some of the hats in my collection. I got them all from a thrift store in Highland Park for $1.00 each. On Christmas Eve, 2013, I was travelling home via train and wearing one with my outfit for mass. In Camden, NJ, I was harassed for being rich because of my "fancy clothes". I told the man I got my entire outfit for under five dollars, but he didn't care, and it didn't matter, because I was portraying myself as someone very wealthy.

These are just some of the hats in my collection. I got them all from a thrift store in Highland Park for $1.00 each. On Christmas Eve 2013, I was travelling home via train and wearing one with my outfit for mass. In Camden, NJ, I was harassed for being rich because of my “fancy clothes.” I told the man I got my entire outfit for under five dollars, but he didn’t care, and it didn’t matter, because I was portraying myself as someone very wealthy.

The last object I have chosen to document is my hat collection. In one scene of The Queen of Versailles, David Siegel says something I’m paraphrasing as, “Everybody wants to be rich, and if they aren’t rich, they want to feel rich.” Even though I like to believe I have rejected most tenants of consumer culture, I cannot say that I never want to feel rich. When I wear these hats, I feel fabulously wealthy. Even if it is in a more antiquated and dramatic way, I can understand the appeal of feeling very rich. Perhaps then, David Siegel has touched on something fundamental to American culture: With money, you can be whoever you want. Money can buy not just your clothes, but your values as well. Everybody wants to rich!

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

Material Culture: More Status than Personality

by Ryan Weiner

It can be fair to say that most houses in America have furniture, pictures, food and many other objects that make up the domestic space. Without a person to occupy the space and call it their “home,” there would be no objects. Therefore, the objects in the domestic space are a good representation of the resident’s personality. However, the objects tend to become more of a representation of status and the lifestyle that the residents live. Jackie Siegel’s way to express herself and lifestyle was to buy as many things as she could. Even in struggling financial times, she still had the desire to buy many toys for her children even though most of her kids ended up not even utilizing the toys (Queen of Versailles). Jackie’s “shopaholic” personality is created by her desire to fill her mansion-size house so that people realize and understand the wealthy lifestyle that they live. David Siegel expresses the same desire when discussing the building of his new house, which would be the biggest in the country. He explains that the reason he is building the house is, “because I can” (Queen of Versailles). Throughout the Queen of Versailles documentary, David Siegel is mostly seen in a small cluttered office, which shows his discontentment with that space. He does not need the bigger house: he simply wants to improve his status as a wealthy person. Status is also shown by the Tredwell family in the 19th century. The family insisted that guests came through the mid-level door so their first sights would be the magnificence architecture and furniture of the house. Downstairs was where the family room and kitchen were located, which were isolated from the guests. The Tredwells wanted to make sure their status of wealthy people was seen and that was not to be done in the family room or kitchen (Merchant House Museum).  Even though the Siegels and Tredwells are from two completely different centuries, they share the same characteristics. Each family thrived on the importance of status in society. Both families made sure that the inside of their houses expressed their wealthy lifestyles to the public. Therefore, it shows that even in a private domestic setting, society can still have an impact. People have the opportunity to do whatever they want inside their own homes, but instead tend to make sure they satisfy society.

Ryan Photo 1

This is a 60 inch High Definition Television set that has AppleTv and an XBox system. This is the first thing a person sees as they walk into my college apartment. It blows the minds of everyone who walks in the apartment, college students or not, because college students are supposed to be “poor” and not have anything nice in their living spaces. However, my roommate and I decided to spend the money and buy these things because we wanted our apartment to be “the place to be.”

Ryan Photo 2

This lamp that is located in our apartment has never been plugged in. The lamp is there for decoration because it is unique from any other college apartment. If we were going to have our apartment be “the place to be” then we decided to decorate it with a unique taste like this Sea-Shell lamp.

Ryan Photo 3

This golf club set sits in the corner of the apartment. I am a golfer myself and do use the clubs, but when not used my roommate and I wanted to use the set as a decoration in the apartment. We did this because golf can sometimes be associated with high status and that is the decoration style we wanted in our apartment. College students are not known to have high status, but we wanted to decorate our apartment with objects that represented that type of status.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

Materialistic Society Destroying Family Traditions & Values

Materialistic Society Destroying Family Traditions & Values

By LA Hall

I can imagine myself as a contestant on a game show. The game is simple – the host says a word or phrase and the person playing must say the first thing that comes to mind. Something like this:

Host: “American Society”

Me: “Materialistic!”

The reason why the word materialistic comes to mind is because we live and have lived in a society where material things are our most important possessions. It is as if we have become a selfish society and have forgotten about family traditions and values. People now focus on ways to reach top social status and will do anything they can to do so. Once a person receives the amount of desired capital, he or she decides to either purchase a house full of rooms, which will possibly be vacant, or obtain all types of expensive cars and gadgets to look wealthy and exaggerate happiness.

There are many examples of those who illustrate the notion of a materialistic society. We can focus on David Siegel, the owner of Westgate resorts. David, as described in the documentary film The Queen of Versailles, was a child who came from a family who had nothing, but they still found a way to provide for him. He saw his parents struggle and decided he didn’t want to live his life that way. David reached a high level of success and fulfilled his goal of having a substantial amount of personal wealth. The values that he had as a child – remembering his parents giving all they could just to get a chocolate bar – are hidden from his own children. David goes on to get all the expensive material things you could think of – big houses, nice cars, expensive furniture, etc. His children grow up never having to work for anything and become spoiled, while having unrealistic views of everyday life in relation to the rest of the world. Those children never get a proper bearing in the world or the experience that David had, and all traditions and values are lost, creating a generational curse (Queen of Versailles).

Personally, being raised in an unstructured but family oriented household by my grandparents, I’ve learned to keep family traditions and to always hold true to my values. Three of the most vital values/traditions my family holds were to never forget your race/ethnic background, remember those that fought to get you here, and to always fear God. I strive for success daily but I can never reach a level of happiness with material things. I will only be great if I do it while staying true to who I am and how my family taught me to be. No matter where I go, I will always have things that will remind me of my precious family traditions and values. I will do everything I can to make sure my children adopt the same mindset.

Spirit

“Spirt Plaques”, 2014. Courtesy of Apartment Wall.

These are wooden plaques that I have had in my life since I was about three years old. These hung on my grandmother’s walls in our home. As I grew older I always looked to these items for strength and encouragement. When I graduated High School and went off to college, my grandmother made sure I had these with me. She told me that I should keep these with me, always remember that God is watching over me and has me in his hands. I will never forget the value these hold and will pass these along to my children.

POW MIA

“POW MIA Flag,” 2014. Courtesy of Apartment Wall

This is a flag that my grandfather had since the days he was in the army. The letters stand for US military personnel taken as “Prisoners of War” or listed as “Missing in Action”. I have two siblings and my grandfather gave each of us a flag when we were younger to let us know that there are people who might never see their families again and to always be thankful for having ours. I also have this item with me in college and it will hang in my home in the future.

Black Power Salute

“Black Power Salute Poster,” 2014. Courtesy of Apartment Wall

This is a poster that hangs in my room while in college. The poster is a picture of  the black power salute given at the 1968 Olympics. The salute was an act of protest by the African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics. I have this poster because it reminds me about the people that made a way from me. I ran track in high School and this was always an image that I loved and hung it up to show my pride for my people.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

 

 

Personal culture

By Mohammad Iqbal

Material culture is personal and different for everyone in society. Because people’s life experiences are distinct from others, life has its quirks and twists for everyone. It is similar to dancing – the rhythm and lyrics of a song make a person want to illustrate their representation in their own way. Culture exists through individual personality and the stages of life of people. One that is young describes it with toys or insignificant objects, while an older person would use bigger and more constructive objects. When talking about material culture, it should be remembered that these objects should enable individuals to gain knowledge and importance of the past or present, through triggering a memory or use of the object.  My personal material culture represents various standpoints and attitudes of today’s society.

rug

The most important personal belonging of mine is the prayer rug. The prayer rug represents discipline and the way of life I choose to participate in and the type of company I like to associate with. This is most significant to me because today’s world is becoming too man-centered and scientific to the point where people have lost track of what is important, what is real happiness, and the meaning of life. Working from dawn to dusk, celebrating every single week, gaming every night, tolerating taboos, is not the lifestyle I wish to support. Where is the fun in that? Does that relieve the internal exhaustion? By restricting myself to the rug and its beliefs, I can find my own happiness and be the happiest. This is the perception that many people lack today as they have grown too infatuated with many objects, i.e. films, sex, drugs, etc. They are obtaining happiness from sources that provide little to no education of the way life should be or help their inner peace.

pan

Sauce pan and/or Sauté pan are objects that are important part of life because I am not a restaurant person or someone who orders too much food. By owning these pans, I have the opportunity to make my own delicious food, hot and without having to wait an hour at a restaurant or for delivery, then opening a million containers and putting the food on my plate. Cooking also conserves money and is less expensive than eating at food places regularly. In today’s society where fast food is at every corner, many people limit themselves. Daily visits to restaurants or throwing huge feasts with friends is simply throwing hard earned money away during the present and not caring about the future. People are under the impression that money comes easy by working at any place. While that is somewhat true, they fail to understand why saving money is important. If serious about life, life requires time, money and dedication, and while people usually focus on time and dedication, they are often short on or wasteful when it comes to money. They rely too heavily on bad and awful restaurants when they could simply have eaten excellently made food at home with friends and family.

laptop

The tree of knowledge, growing with the world of technology and roots reaching every corner of the world, the laptop. I have not grown up with a laptop or an internet connection, but after life progressed and time integrated with technology advancement, I have become a laptop’s user. Through this means, I gain education and become informed of worldly events and passions. There is entertainment, and many other things involved also. This is the same way today’s world functions because everything is on the internet which requires some kind of medium such as a phone. The use of them shows that people do not like handling business face-to-face anymore. Need an application? Go to your laptop! Writing a paper? Go to your laptop! Entertainment? Laptop! Can’t own a book? Kindle it! Phone dropped in water? Lapto… Not! You need to hurry up and pull it out at this very second. We currently live in a world where duties are carried out easily and at our convenience, which allows us to steer life at our own pace. The use of laptops and other devices shows we have started to become a part of society where, in order to seek answers and construct our life, we need to succumb to a new technology-based world and learn its ways.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

What it Is vs. What it Represents

By Carley Chan

Material culture is the belief that objects hold greater value than their intended function. In The Queen of Versailles, the size and grandeur of the Siegels’ current and dream homes are public displays of wealth and power. Though Jackie Siegel claims that moving into the biggest home in America will give the family some “much needed space,” she also describes the 90,000 square foot house, modeled and named after Versailles, as a tribute to her husband’s life achievements. While touring the half-finished home, Jackie rattles off the impressive prices of various fixtures – as if to imply that a window is more than a window if it costs a few million dollars. But as she wobbles up the grandiose staircase, the Siegels’ dream seems more ridiculous than impressive. Versailles is so over-the-top that it barely registers as a home; the dissonance between practicality and extravagance seems too large to bridge.

At the Merchant’s House Museum in Manhattan, material culture is evident in the stark contrast between the lavish ground floor seen by guests and the practical living arrangement of the basement, accessible only by family members and servants. Though both floors were furnished more or less by the same objects, namely chairs, couches, tables, lamps, drapes, etc., appearances were much more important on the upper floor. Compared to the elaborate and modern front rooms, the basement was surprisingly plain and simple. The most luxurious item was a couch that had once been displayed upstairs, but was deemed out of style and thus moved out of the public view.

In the cases of Versailles and the Merchant’s House, the gap between household objects’ intrinsic and extrinsic purposes are enormous. However, this gap cannot be completely written off as a result of a bourgeois world view. As Ann Cvetkovich writes in “In the Archives of Lesbian Feelings,” “affects – associated with nostalgia, personal memory, fantasy, and trauma – make a document significant. The archive of feelings is both material and immaterial, at once incorporating objects that might not ordinarily be considered archival.” Material culture exists in almost all domestic spaces. The worth we assign to our belongings can be used to explain, in part, how a house becomes a home for the people who live in it, and how this distinction is visually represented to the outside world.

This oven is one of my mom’s prized possessions – she frequently says that if she ever moves, she is taking the oven with her. As a stay-at-home mom whose hobby is food, my mom spends a lot of time in the kitchen. Unlike the Merchant’s House family, whose kitchen was hidden in the basement as a part of domesticity inappropriate for public viewing, my mom is proud to be able to provide good food to her family and guests. The reliable appliances that make this possible are naturally important to her as well.

These Chinese calligraphy scrolls are just a few of the many that hang all over my house. Because they are displayed in the room closest to our front door, they are visible to anyone that walks in. I have gotten remarks that my house looks “very Chinese” or “very cultural” and have also been asked what the scrolls say, where my family is from, and if my parents can speak English. The “Chineseness” of the decorations in my house seem to raise questions about the Americanness of my family, despite the fact that we all speak fluent English and only my dad can read what is written on the scrolls.

The decoration that hangs at our front door changes periodically with the season or occasion. This particular one was set out a few weeks ago to welcome Spring. It is also supposed to give the impression that my family responsibly attends to the upkeep of our house. In other words, we are not one of those neglectful families that leave our Christmas decorations out until March. Due to the fact we ourselves rarely see the outside of our front door, the decoration is almost exclusively for our neighbors’ viewing… though I have a feeling they rarely notice.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

A Home is Made of Feelings

By Bobby Buscher

Objects are inherently meaningless and can also have a proliferation of meanings. Similarly, a home follows the same idea as objects. A home is not just a building with a roof, but a place filled with meaningful objects. The objects are parts of a larger sum, that being the home and its significance. The home and the objects filling it act as an “archive of feelings” and a projection of a constructed social status (Cvetkovich 112 ). The objects allow a glimpse of the composer’s valued mentalities. Examining some of the objects from Bobby Buscher’s home illustrates an appreciation of personal spaces that are modest in appearance but personally significant, and objects that foster contemplation, reflection, emotion reaction, and, overall, a further enrichment of the objects and personal space.

“Bobby’s Buscher’s Bookcase and Couch,” [2014] Courtesy of Austin Buscher.

“Bobby’s Buscher’s Bookcase and Couch,” [2014] Courtesy of Austin Buscher.

Over many years Bobby has accumulated many books quicker than he can read them, as his enjoyment of reading and learning has grown since the eighth grade. Bobby gets enjoyment from owning the books seen above and the many more hidden away in cardboard boxes. Into his college career, Bobby has grown fonder of the exchanges of ideas. For Bobby, the book represent sources of knowledge that he has gained and can reference and reexamine to stay familiar with a text or author. They demonstrate how he wishes to be thought of: as thoughtful and a learner.

The objects in a home serve a purpose beyond their intended application, such as performing a personality or appearance of status. For example, the film The Queen of Versailles captures Jackie and David Siegel’s building of America’s largest home: 90,000 square feet with over a dozen bathrooms and $5 million of Chinese marble.  The house and its contents is one’s ultimate status symbol. “Bobby’s Buscher Bookcase” offers a couch for sitting and reading from the bookcase. Bobby’s constructed status is not of decadence, but of cultural acquisition and reflection on ideas.

“Music Speaker and Music Albums” [2014] Courtesy of Austin Buscher.

“Music Speaker and Music Albums,” [2014] Courtesy of Austin Buscher.

The speakers came from Tom Buscher. Originally the speakers were used in his work office until they were given to Bobby in high school. Interest in The Doors also came from Tom Buscher. The exact date of introduction to The Doors is unknown, but Bobby began to listen to them in the eighth grade, and from that time his interest and studying of the music and band members grew. Discussion of band members and lyrics developed greater appreciation of music, history, and overall, learning.

Cvetkovich notes that “affects–associated with nostalgia, personal memory, fantasy, and trauma–make a document significant,” and the document allows for a study of the individual (Cvetovich 112). Superficially, the speakers and albums tell us some of Bobby’s musical interests. More important is the history Bobby has with music. The speakers were given to him by his father, and The Doors, too, came from his father. Music grounds moments of Bobby’s life and feelings, such as driving to the shore with his father, and a feeling of ease in the car while listening to The Dark Side of the Moon. Music recalls discussion with his father and brother dissecting lyrics and song meaning. Music is more than instruments and lyrics; it is a device to recall the past with all of its pleasures and pains.

“Bobby Buscher’s Bed” [2014] Courtesy of Austin Buscher.

“Bobby Buscher’s Bed,” [2014] Courtesy of Austin Buscher.

For many people the bed is the center of their bedroom, and the same holds for Bobby. This bed has belonged to Bobby since he was three to five years old. For as long as Bobby can remember he has always treated his bed as a place of both rest and work. From high school to college he has spent many hours reading, writing, typing, and sleeping in this bed. It is a place he feels most comfortable and at ease to concentrate on studying without anxiety to find a place that seems conducive to concentration and diligence.

Most people might think of a bed as a place of comfort and sleeping. For Bobby, comfort is found in a place that offers little physical and mental agitation. He feels his bed is that ideal place of comfort that is conducive to working and relaxing. Like the couch near the bookcase, the bed is not cluttered with pillows or elaborately colored and patterned.

The creation of home and domesticity pulls from various materials and capital. Through material and capital consumption the home becomes a place to deposit values, emotions, and constructed status. Thinking about how Bobby has developed spaces in his home, we can see that the objects have depth beyond their superficial appearance and use. The materials offers glimpses of Bobby’s appreciations and how he wants others to think of him.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

 

The Sanctuary of Home

By: Mike Rogan

The Sanctuary of Home

The sense of home a person feels is unique to their own dwelling, not only because it is the area in which they eat, sleep, and ultimately reside, but because they also share a deep connection with the objects and various materials that make up that person’s individual sense of culture. This sense of culture is preserved through these items and artifacts by creating a sense of individual culture that is enshrined and archived within the home. As shown in Queen of Versailles, and through Ann Cvetkovich’s article, “In the Archive of Lesbian Feelings,” these items can be extremely different from individual to individual, however everyone has certain items which they hold dear to their person for one reason or another. When these two sources are compared to the items I would provide for my personal archive,it becomes clear that these items aren’t valued in a necessarily monetary or traditional sense, but rather in an emotional and personal construction of what our outside representations of home are. Although a person on the outside might view another’s object as trivial or ordinary, the value placed within it is by the individual, not by society as a whole. I believe this is a testament to the individuality and diversity of current American culture. This can be shown through my own individual selections as well as through the simple fact that without knowing me on an extremely deep level, you would not be able to guess the items I chose as being exceptionally special in my conception and creation of an archive of my personal culture. This being said, I am sure this applies to most individuals in American society as well. These items show the creative and personal process in which domesticity is created in America today.

The first object I have chosen is a collection of Rogue Farms bomber bottles, which I have chosen because of the sense of family as well as persistence the bottles mean to me. The second item in the archive of my personal culture would be a small statue of Buddha, in three similar poses, representing “See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil.” It has come to represent personal beliefs and feelings along with a sense of superstition. The final item I chose to represent my personal culture would be a large African themed warrior tapestry that hangs across my living room wall in my apartment. This is special to me as it represents both a sense of lasting friendship and tradition both within and outside of my personal life. The word domesticity, I believe, has taken a turn in the direction of warmth and comfort rather than a household set of role playing rules. The objects we fill our homes with are unique to our own sense of style and what relaxes us and puts us at ease. Through these objects, I believe I have accomplished creating such a personal archive in my own domestic sphere, as most Americans do in their own lives.
Five Rogue Bottles, Photo by Mike Rogan
The first item is the most recent, but seemingly most special in the sense that it represents a more traditional sense of American domestic culture. The reason I feel this is a part of my “material culture” is the bond it creates with my father, who had collected the first Rogue bottle released, and years later I began to collect Rogue without knowing. Representing our home through its similarity to our name, collecting then bottles brought a sense of pride that we came together as a family to continue and better ourselves. Also in a traditional American sense is the idea of persistence both in American values and the continual collecting of this object with my father.

 

Buddha Statue, Photo by Mike Rogan

The second item I chose in creating an archive of my own domestic culture would be a Buddha Statue which I have had in my room, wherever that may be, since I was around twelve. The fact of that it has followed me through four residences has made it a staple of my personal domestic culture. It represents domesticity through my superstition of it bringing me and my loved ones good luck, and through personal religious philosophies I’ve come to see as true in Buddhism. Although I am not a Buddhist, the customary understanding of this piece still holds meaning for me.

Tribal Warrior Tapestry, Photo by Mike Rogan

The third item in my archive I believe relates to domesticity through strong and enduring bonds of friendship and tradition. The tribal nature and sense of tradition remind me of my father and my Irish roots and its influence on how I view home. It also reminds me of two of my best friends, and current roommates, one of which I have known since I was one month old. It reminds me of the extreme duration of time we have spent together and expands my sense of who I include in “home” to not just those inside the actual home.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

Working Hard and Having Fun: It is What We Do

by: Lindsey Malko

When it comes to items within my place of residence, plenty of the items have special meanings behind them, but they aren’t necessarily items that I have for a material purposes or for a certain display of an economic power which was seen in The Queen of Versailles. Most of the objects in my possession have more of a sentimental and practical value than anything else.

Living in a college apartment really affects the types of appliances and items that one might have. Because of our low status on the pyramid, we do not have as much money to furnish our homes with expensive items that really show our wealth, such as the gas chandelier-type lighting that was found in the Merchant’s House Museum. Those lights were found in the main sitting room where guests were invited into to show off how fancy and nice they could keep their place. An item such as that would not be found in my apartment, but something with more value to me and my roommates would.

We are essentially marking a history of our lives, and even though these objects will be taken away in a few short days due to graduating and moving back home, they still represent something in a new place. These items that we have strategically placed in our apartment “serve as a ritual space within which cultural memory and history are preserved” and for which we have special uses and special meanings (Cvetkovich 109). They represent who we are, in the sense that we like to have fun, but like to get things done at the same time. We are college students after all.

 

Our Keurig Machine

This object is not actually mine but belongs to my roommate. It is important to my apartment because of how we use it. Many families may have Keurig machines in their homes to alleviate the hassle of making coffee in the morning. For us, the case is the same when we actually have K-cups to use. At my home where I grew up, we do not even own a Keurig machine, so being able to use one at school makes me feel pretty special. It helps us to have more time to do work, just popping in a K-cup and some water and the coffee will be made within 5 minutes.

 

The Collection of Whales

 

This next collection of objects represents our fun side. Once in a while, when we have some free time and being of legal age to drink, we will go out with some friends after a fun concert and have some drinks. One of these drinks happens to be called the “Blue Whale” from the restaurant Houlihan’s. Over a larger period of time, we have these whales as evidence of how many of these drinks we have had, but also to decorate the wall at the same time. The whales serve the purpose of documenting the fun times we have with each other, not how much money each of them is worth.

The Sink

From a domestic standpoint the sink has a lot of meaning. In our apartment we specifically do not own/have a dishwasher and we would not be allowed to put one in either. It shows that we have to do all our hard work, but when our hard work is done we can enjoy ourselves. It represents the value that we take care of ourselves but also, since we are all female, are always doing the cleaning. If we did not do it, then no one else would, and it is important for us to maintain a healthy lifestyle and clean apartment while living at college and making a future for ourselves.

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/

Pieces of Home

By Sabrina Lauredent

A home is not merely a location or a house; it is the compilation of family and individual values, meaningful trinkets collected through the years, and other artifacts that would make one comfortable. Historian Jules Prown describes this compilation as material culture or “the study through artifacts of the beliefs-values, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions of a particular community or a society at a given time.” Material culture gives meaning to objects in one’s home beyond outwards appearance or its ascetic contribution to the space; it can provide insight to the owner’s character and preferences. It has the potential to tell the observer what the owner values or believes, where they have been and what they do. Of the many artifacts in my apartment I call home, a watch, newspaper clipping, and picture frame are the most representative of my character and achievements. However, everyone does not collect the same specific artifacts or similar types as it varies by individual experience and forms of expression.

The current dominant view in American society is the American Dream, the idea that if one works hard enough they will be able to indulge in their riches. It is a dream that has lasted generations but varies in execution. Within the documentary The Queen of Versailles, viewers are able to get a glimpse of the lives of Jackie and David Siegel and their luxurious journey from “riches to rags.” The couple’s accumulation of cars, dogs, chairs and hotels, or rather their “stuff” is a symbol of success and achievement. Similar to the concept of trophies, their stuff serves to show others what they are able to afford/spend, and this behavior is not just limited to the Siegels. Many, including myself, often reward themselves for their hard work and advancement in society. The watch below is more than something that tells time or a beautiful bracelet; it is a symbol of adulthood and responsibility. This watch, though nowhere near as luxurious as the one Jackie Siegel may have, is the first “big” purchase I made with the money I earned and I consider it my first real investment. Since I paid for the watch on my own, it also serves as a symbol of independence and a large step into adulthood. Image

Despite the predominant belief of the American Dream, many people in our nation are creating their own journey to success, redefining it in ways relative to themselves. People are now creating their own dream different from the previous dream, but still a dream nonetheless. Inn the article “In the Archives of Lesbian Feeling,” Cvetkovich describes how one female group was able to write their happy ending in their own “non-Hollywood” style. “These girls make a ‘whole world’ out of a parking lot and kisses, in defiance of what usually counts as fame and fortune in popular fantasy and world history…Without going anywhere, they are as ‘famous’ as Hollywood stars and as adventurous as…the explorers who colonized the world” (Cvetkovich 131). Instead of replicating the scenarios prevalent in society or creating the “perfect” ending, these girls made the experience all their own and so much more enjoyable. They are deviating from the norm in a way that is productive to their cause and goal and establishing a new perspective in society; they are forging a new path to happiness. The frame below represents my ideal college experience which included the perfect  group of friends and overall happiness. The figures are drawn in to represent my friends.The final artifact that exists in my home is a newspaper clipping from the Daily Targum that describes a program I helped start called “RU Appreciation” in which students would give thanks to those that support them through their journey at Rutgers. To many others it is just a newspaper clipping, but to me it is my biggest accomplishment at Rutgers as I became more than my RUID number and finally recognized by a large portion of the Rutgers community, establishing it as my second home away from home.

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 Sabrina

This post was completed as part of an assignment interpreting the “material culture” of home, and how objects, keepsakes, and ephemera from our domestic lives contribute to our social identities. For additional information on the assignment, please visit: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-the-archeology-of-home/