My work on material culture addresses intersections among history, art history, anthropology, and philosophy. My principal scholarly concern is to mobilize non-written traces of the past to illuminate aspects of the lives of human actors that would otherwise remain obscure. As well as writing individual historical case studies on topics ranging from seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, to Roman baroque sculpture, Native American baskets, and Congo textiles, I work on the philosophical plane of second order questioning. While on the faculty at Cambridge University, I collaborated with the late Salim Kemal to edit a ten book series of multi-author volumes, Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and the Arts. I have organized numerous experimental exhibitions at Harvard University, where I taught and curated between 1991 and 2011. I am the author, editor, or co-editor of fifteen books, and have contributed to numerous journals and edited volumes in history, art history, and philosophy. Since 2016, I have been a permanent fellow at the Advanced Study Institute of the University of Göttingen.

Selected Recent Publications

Paintings and the Past: Philosophy, History, Art. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

“History of Things.” In Debating New Approaches in History, edited by Marek Tamm and Peter Burke, 217-232, 239-246. London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

“Aesthetic Judgment and the Transcultural Apprehension of Material Things.” In Social Aesthetics and Moral Judgment: Pleasure, Reflection and Accountability, edited by Jennifer McMahon, 161-179. London and New York: Routledge, 2018.

“Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory.” In Essays in Criticism 67, 79-86. Oxford University Press, 2017.

“The Museum of Big Ideas.” In Philosophy and Museums: Essays on the Philosophy of Museums, edited by Victoria S. Harrison, Anna Bergqvist, and Gary Kemp, 55-75. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

“Size Matters/Größenordnungen: Kupferplatten und Digitaldatien in der Produktion von niederländischen Drucken.” In Sturm der Bilder: Bürger, Moral und Politik in den Niederlanden, 1515-1616, edited Ivan Gaskell and Martin van Gelderen, 15-23. Göttingen: Verlag der Kunst, 2016.

“Fooled Again: Trompe l’Oeil Revisited.” In Cambridge and the Study of Netherlandish Art The Low Countries and the Fens, edited by Meredith M. Hale, 99-106. Doornik/Turnhout: Brepols, 2016.

Author, with Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Sara J. Schechner, Sarah Anne Carter, and photographs by Samantha S.B. van Gerbig, Tangible Things: Making History through Objects. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Selected Courses

871 Thinking with Things in North America

876 Tangible Things: Observing, Collecting, Sorting

883 Damage, Decay, Conservation

912 Curatorial Practice and American Art at the Metropolitan Museum

915 History and Material Culture: New Directions

932 The American Civil War: Art and Material Culture

967 Oceania: Art and Material Culture