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Carter to Lead UW Center for Design and Material Culture at SoHE

The School of Human Ecology is pleased to announce that Dr. Sarah Anne Carter will serve as Executive Director of the Center for Design and Material Culture and Associate Professor of Design Studies beginning in fall of 2021. Since summer of 2019, Carter has served as Visiting Executive Director and Visiting Assistant Professor, leading the center’s vision and planning work, drawing key exhibitions to its two galleries, and driving strategic relationships with leaders in the field.

Sarah Carter headshot
Dr. Sarah Anne Carter

“I am happy to have the opportunity to implement our long-term vision for developing the CDMC into a dynamic and accessible hub for the study of material culture and design, with the goal of engaging with our broader UW–Madison community, as well as with material culture and design researchers and practitioners from across the country,” says Carter. “Working in a collaborative and interdisciplinary way, we can reimagine the pedagogical possibilities of material culture and design, with our world class textile collection as a centerpiece for object-based research, teaching, and exhibitions. I can’t wait to welcome new undergraduate and graduate students interested in rethinking our field’s histories and futures to the School of Human Ecology!”

The Center for Design and Material Culture is home to four key university assets: the Ruth Davis Design Gallery, the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, and the Design Thinking Initiative. Their connection under a single organization ensures a fruitful integration of their complementary educational goals.

Prior to joining SoHE, Carter was the Curator and Director of Research at the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she collaboratively curated museum exhibitions and directed Chipstone’s Think Tank Program to promote progressive curatorial practice. She earned her PhD in American Studies from Harvard University and her MA in Early American Material Culture from the University of Delaware and the Winterthur Program, ultimately focusing her research in histories of children and childhood, museums, domestic interiors and the home, as well as American social and cultural life more broadly.

Earlier this year, Carter published the Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture, a 30-essay collection that she co-edited with Dr. Ivan Gaskell. She is also the author of Object Lessons: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Learned to Make Sense of the Material World (Oxford, 2018) and co-author of Tangible Things: Making History Through Objects (Oxford, 2015).

“I am impressed with Dr. Carter’s multifaceted talents in collection management, innovative curatorial practices, object-based learning and teaching,” says Dr. Soyeon Shim, Dean of the School of Human Ecology. “In particular, I am excited about her vision for fostering a center that reaches beyond the traditional ties between CDMC and the Design Studies department. She sees powerful potential in connecting with other constituents across SoHE, across the UW campus, and with broader artistic, scholarly, and public communities.”

Learn more about Sarah’s work and about the study of material culture in her Q&A from April discussing her latest book.

Read about one of Sarah’s mentees and former Chipstone fellow, Natalie Wright, who recently won a major research grant for her work on the connections between histories of making and disability.