Catherine Whalen

Faculty Member

Bard Graduate Center

Associate Professor


My research interests include the history and theory of collecting, material culture studies methodology and historiography, craft and design history, digital oral history, public humanities, and vernacular photography. My forthcoming book is Material Politics: Francis P. Garvan, American Antiques, and the Alchemy of Collecting in the Interwar United States,for the series Public History in Historical Perspective from the University of Massachusetts Press. Rather than offer a conventional biography, I show how this outspoken ideologue’s political and business dealings informed his collecting practices and unpack the hefty symbolic freight that he believed American antiques carried in service of what was, by the 1930s, an ambitious project of cultural and economic nationalism. By doing so, I elucidate how objects perform a material politics; that is, enact political agendas and operate as an important form of cultural power. I am also the author of “Collecting as Historical Practice and the Conundrum of the Unmoored Object” in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture, edited by Ivan Gaskell and Sarah Anne Carter. Currently I am co-editing Paul Hollister: Collected Writings on Studio Glass, with Irene Hollister. This volume brings together important published work by this noted critic and historian of the studio glass movement, accompanied by essays on his significance to the field and an annotated bibliography. I direct the Bard Graduate Center Craft and Design Oral History Project, a digital archive of interviews with contemporary craftspeople and designers conducted by graduate students in the seminar 693. Craft and Design in the U.S.A., 1945-present. In collaboration with the Chipstone Foundation, I offer the course 912. Curatorial Practice as Experiment, which gives students the opportunity to explore innovative curation and create their own exhibition.