• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Humanities
  • Areas of interest Archaeology, Art History, Cultural Studies, History, Museums and Collections

Material Culture Studies is an interdisciplinary field that investigates the appearances, roles and histories of material culture ranging from art works and automobiles to baskets and stone artefacts. What defines material culture, and the theories that have led the way in the development of material culture studies, are two key areas of exploration for this course. Truly interdisciplinary in nature, Material Culture Studies applies theories and methods from a broad field of disciplines including anthropology, archaeology, art history, museum studies and sociology. This course encourages students to develop a critical understanding of the relationships between material culture and people, and the ways in which the material world is integral to value creation processes.

Key course topics

  • Histories and theories of material culture studies
  • Research methodologies for material culture studies
  • Colonialism, museum and collecting
  • Style and function
  • Objects, memory and biography
  • Art and aesthetics
  • Objects in social context and performance

This course aims to:

  • Evaluate objects as important cultural and social entities that are integral to value creation processes in our society in addition to being able to analyse their forms.
  • Demonstrate conceptual and analytical skills to interpret the meanings and uses of material culture.
  • Synthesise key concepts from Material Culture Studies, and demonstrate effective communication and independent conceptual thinking relevant to research focused on materiality.
  • Apply theoretical and methodological skills to research relevant to the field of Material culture studies and other related fields of study.
  • Apply theoretical and methodological skills to workplace situations, particularly in regard to the management of material culture collections.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On completing this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  • Use appropriate written and verbal expression for a variety of relevant professional and academic purposes in cultural and environmental heritage that include essays, report preparation and analysis, and oral in-class presentation.
  • To develop skills in interdisciplinary thinking and the ability to apply relevant theoretical ideas to examine material culture.
  • To gain skills required for humanities and social sciences research at the standard of a postgraduate degree, particularly skills to conduct research using qualitative approaches.
  • Apply a functioning knowledge of current industry standards and protocols in material culture studies.

Indicative Assessment

1 x Material Culture Class worksheet 1000-1500 words (10%), 1 x cemetery study  2000 words (30%), 1 presentation  - 5 minutes (20%), and 1 x essay 2500-3000(40%)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Normally offered each year. Two hour lecture plus one hour tutorial each week during semester. 

Preliminary Reading

Tilley, Christopher et al. 2006. Handbook of Material Culture. London: Sage Publications.



Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $2604
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $4146
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
On Campus
4293 15 Feb 2016 26 Feb 2016 31 Mar 2016 27 May 2016 In Person N/A
4863 15 Feb 2016 26 Feb 2016 31 Mar 2016 27 May 2016 Online N/A

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