Research into the History of Material Culture.


This paper presents the problems of methods and the developments in historically-orientated ethnological material culture research activity during the period 1950-1990. After the end of the Second World War, research into material culture gained ground in the aftermath of an altered scientific understanding in German ethnology. Alongside individually planned research projects of the Göttingen School, there stood above all the investigations of the "Atlas of German Ethnology" between 1965-1970, through which the complex world of the culture of agricultural work and implements was documented by making use of correspondents. Whilst this approach, in terms of method, lay close to research into cultural areas and thus gave priority to questions concerning spatial data, nevertheless, from the 1970s, the kind of systematic, quantifying research into inventories that was starting concentrated more strongly on research into questions of process in material culture. Finally, the belief that historical material culture research cannot be carried out without including surviving artefacts was stressed in the 1980s by many museums; it led to the first successful quantitative approaches to research into material culture and archives, carried out in the Open Air Museum of Cloppenburg in Lower Saxony.

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Meiners, U., (1989) “Research into the History of Material Culture.”, Ethnologia Europaea 20(1), 15-34. doi:


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Uwe Meiners (Schlossmuseum Jever)



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