Daily Work

The Deeper Meaning of Material Culture

The essay titled American Artifacts by Kenneth Haltman is interesting in that it elaborates on what historians call “material culture.” According to Haltman, material culture is an object with unconscious and conscious beliefs attached to that object (Haltman 9). This attitude or belief can come from the maker or the use.

This is fascinating because at surface value,  most objects appear to be nothing more than something to better our lives, but if you look a little deeper, you can find a deeper connection to the values of society at the time that this object was made.

A cellphone, for example, appears to just be a way for someone to talk to another person, but when searched for a deeper meaning, it can be found that it represent the need for society to be better connected with each other and to make the world that much smaller.

Another interesting idea expressed in American Artifacts is that, according to Haltman, the description of an object is what historians use to “evolve” explanations (Haltman 4). To elaborate his point, Haltman gives an example of a picture and how they use the remarks about the picture to explain it. This is intriguing because it implies that object itself does not make it material culture. The remarks about the picture act as the attitude towards the event which means that they symbolize the culture attached to the photo.

Overall, even though some parts of the essay were a bit hard to read, it was very interesting and informational.



Haltman, K. American Artifacts. Michigan State University Press.

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