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Annual Parsons/Cooper Hewitt Graduate Student Symposium on the History of Design

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Call for Papers:
The Twenty-Seventh Annual Parsons/Cooper Hewitt Graduate Student Symposium on the History of Design
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York.
April 26 and 27, 2018.


A unique confluence of circumstances made New York City both a chief entrepot of early America and something of a cultural anomaly in the country. More diverse than many other American cities, even in the 18th century, a major center of immigration, more highly urbanized, and more open to social experimentation than other parts of the country, New York has often been seen as in but not fully of America: a symbol of otherness.

We are looking for papers that explore the history of making, fabrication, industry and crafts in New York--on large and small scales, high design and popular culture, tangible goods and media product--from the Dutch founding of the city, or even before, to the present day.

By the early 19th century, the city grew to be one of the largest manufacturing centers in the country: the leader in fashion and high style, and in shopping culture, earning it the sobriquet The Great Emporium. New York City was also the media center of the country in the 1800s, home to publishing houses and, by the early 20th century, a nascent film industry, establishing and disseminating American cultural norms and archetypes.

Today, large-scale manufacturing has long since left the city, but a vibrant culture of making remains. From artisanal workshops to medium-scale factories, New Yorkers continue to produce tangible goods. Local production is also an essential factor in creating an environmentally sustainable city.

In examining the material culture output of the city both past and present, we hope to explore these and other themes.
    •    What has been manufactured in New York, by whom, and for whom?
    •    What is being made now?
    •    What roles have New York-made products had in the formulation of American culture?
    •    How have the cultural associations of the city developed, been contested, and shifted amongst different constituencies, and how have those meanings accrued onto objects made in the city?
    •    How has consumer culture developed in the city?
    •    How have goods been advertised and sold?
    •    What aesthetics and styles grow out of the unique circumstances of the city’s street grid, buildings, and/or modes of living?

Proposals are welcome from graduate students at any level in fields such as History of Art and Architecture, History of Design, History of the Decorative Arts, Design Studies, American Studies, Architectural Theory and Criticism, Fashion Studies, Cultural Anthropology, Consumer Studies, Design and Technology, Media Studies, Museum Studies, Food Studies, etc.

This year’s Voorsanger Keynote speaker will be Peter M. Kenny, co-President of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and former Ruth Bigelow Wriston Curator of American Decorative Arts and Administrator of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As a historian of American furniture and interiors, much of Dr. Kenny’s work has been with New-York-based makers, including publications such as Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York (2011), Honore Lannuier, Cabinet Maker from Paris: The Life and Work of a French Ebeniste in Federal New York (1998), and American Kasten: the Dutch-Style Cupboards of New York and New Jersey, 1650-1800 (1991). The symposium's keynote address is dedicated to the late Catherine Hoover Voorsanger.

The Keynote will be on Thursday evening, April 26, 2016 and the symposium sessions will be in the morning and afternoon on Friday, April 27.
To submit a proposal, send a two-page abstract, one-page bibliography and a c.v. to:
Ethan Robey
MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies

Deadline for proposals: February 26, 2018.
The symposium is sponsored by the MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies offered jointly by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Parsons School of Design.


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