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About the Material Culture Forum

Since March 1988, the Smithsonian Material Culture Forum has been instrumental in maintaining the sense of a scholarly community at this Institution. The Forum provides researchers with regular opportunities to meet their colleagues in other disciplines and museums, to share information about their fields, to consider different directions in their research, or to develop new collaborative projects. Quarterly meetings of the Forum are  open to all staff, as well as to interested members of the outside academic community. Meetings are  announced via the Material Matters blog and an Institution-wide email.

The Forum issues a publication four times a year. Previously called The Grapevine, the publication was renamed Material Matters in September 2001, reflecting its evolution from an informal newsletter to a more substantive bulletin. Each issue includes a summary of the papers presented at the previous meeting, and an announcement of the next meeting, but it also often includes articles focusing on exhibitions and research, or other matters of current concern to Smithsonian scholars.

Material Matters thus serves as an important channel of communication at the Smithsonian for new ideas and programmatic initiatives. Possible articles are discussed and solicited at the Steering Committee meetings and are also initiated by the editor of the publication.

A webcast of the entire April 23, 2007 Forum, “Breaching a Living & Material Culture: The Ravages of Huricane Katrina,” is archived at