Each fall semester, students in Historical Administration at EIU take two courses that emphasize material culture analysis — HIS 5050: History of American Architecture, taught by Dr. Nora Pat Small, and HIS 5330: Material Life and Decorative Arts in America, taught by Dr. Debra A. Reid (click here for Part I of this post). Students read theory and apply that to studies of decorative arts and the built environment. The goal is to move students away from identification of “styles” of furniture or buildings and toward context, analysis and interpretation. The team of students who created this 18th century Palladial structure did just that.
The finished house even had chocolate-covered waffle-wafer parts to create the look of diamond-shaped muntins on the upper story windows on the front facade. Caroline, Cory and Alex could have waxed eloquent about how this indicated glass-making technology of the time; and they left the interior unfinished, as scholars have argued that some rural residents of Deerfield, Massachusetts, had to do to maintain appearances along “the street.” And the winner of the Great Gingerbread Challenge of 2014 is (at least in the opinion of the bribed judges): the 18th century Palladial structure with real, not rusticated, graham crackers. But we have two more centuries to explore.