Material Collective Founding Documents

Mission Statement

The Material Collective is dedicated to fostering respectful intellectual exchange and innovative scholarship in the study of the visual arts, in the academy, and in the broader, public sphere. We believe that excellent scholarship can grow out of collaboration, experimentation, and play, and we work to create spaces where scholars from many different backgrounds, both traditional and non-traditional, can come together for mutual enrichment.



We are the Material Collective, a group of medievalists interrogating visual materials. We seek to:

  • cooperate
  • encourage
  • share
  • promote transparency
  • touch
  • desire
  • destabilize
  • amuse
  • and blunder

As a collaborative of students of visual culture, Material Collective seeks to foster a safe space for alternative ways of thinking about objects.

We strive for transparency in our practice, and we encourage the same in our institutional surroundings.

Our project touches upon both form and content, as we pursue a lyrical and experimental style of writing along with a more humane, collaborative, and supportive process of scholarship.

We encourage spontaneity in writing art history, including an acknowledgement of our subject positions; therefore we embrace the incorporation of personal narrative and reflection in our historical interpretations.

Our specific interests vary, but we are all committed to prioritizing the materiality of things, the relationships between those things and the human beings who experience them, and the intimacy of past and present moments in time.

As we celebrate, dwell in, and embrace the basic materiality of our objects, we work to find ways to foreground the material of the objects themselves into larger historical analysis.

Central to this effort is a desire to support each other as we attempt to create experimental approaches, and to embrace both the successes and potential failures of our ventures into new ways of thinking.

We are also working to increase the legitimacy of these approaches in the academic world, primarily by practicing them, loudly and often.

We are as much a support group as a scholarly group. We share the joys and sorrows of career, life and our academic work.

For us, this is not a mere exercise — we stand by our manifesto. And we revel in this opportunity to raise a glass with all y’all, right here and now.

We value:

experimental processes
transparency, revelation
a blank space
joy in faltering. together

So say we all.
So say we all.

The following Material Collective members composed the Manifesto:

Marian Bleeke
Jennifer Borland
Rachel Dressler
Martha Easton
Martin K. Foys
Anne F. Harris
Asa Simon Mittman
Karen Overbey
Angela Bennett Segler
Ben C. Tilghman
Nancy M. Thompson
Maggie M. Williams